Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bob Bashara: “What’s BDSM got to do with it?”

Flyer for Bashara's first business enterprise 
The Bashara trial is about to end, with closing statements coming Wednesday, and now we’ll see how the state did. It’s been almost three years since Jane Bashara was murdered, her life snuffed out in her garage under a boot on the foot of Joe Gentz, a man who says he was paid by Bob Bashara to kill Jane. 
Gentz is doing 17-to-28 for second-degree murder in the case.
For Bashara, the state wants a first-degree conviction, saying that without his actions, Jane would be alive. He's also charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder, solicitation of murder, obstruction of justice and witness intimidation.
It’s been a drawn out trial, with 74 witnesses and typically graphic exhibits – a classic murder trial spiced with the BDSM world that Bashara admits he was part of during his last years with Jane.
“They’re using the fact that I had this alternative lifestyle as motive for me wanting to harm my wife,” Bashara told me one day last year. We spoke many times on the phone after he was sent for prison for soliciting the murder of Gentz. A lot of those conversations will show up in the book I’m wrapping up, Murder in Grosse Pointe Park: Privilege, Adultery and the Killing of Jane Bashara, which comes out on Penguin/Berkley in the fall.   
The state claims that he wanted Jane out of the way so he could have a life with his girlfriend, Rachel Gillett, who shared an affinity for the lifestyle with Bob. Also, the state claims that money issues were pressuring Bashara and Jane had a fat IRA that he would be privy to if she were to die.
“My wife was not inhibiting me,” he told me. “If I didn’t want to have Jane, I would have simply divorced her. But I had plenty of income and money was never an issue. I was paying for two kids going to college, had cars and they got whatever they wanted.  If [daughter] Jessie wanted a $500 pair of boots, Jane got them for her.”
Investigators found statements that showed a wide gulf between the income of Bob and Jane. She made close to six figures some years as a marketing consultant and he made barely $20,000 a year as a landlord and sales rep for a chemical company.
It’s not my job, but the defense failed to note that a self-employed individual should show a low adjusted income; better for taxes. I don’t know if that was the case with Bashara, but I’m sure that fact went by the jury in a state where so many people are desperately clinging to whatever employer will have them.
The state did, however, do a good job of exposing Bashara as a bad guy in terms of character. He cheated on his wife, who was clearly intent on working things out in a troubled marriage. He was a slumlord, and a hot-headed bully by a number of accounts. There was an episode in which his daughter found an incriminating text to one of his mistresses – yes, he had more than one - on his phone and he grabbed the phone, erased it, and handed it back to her: “What text?” he said, or something similar. That stuck with me as particularly mean-spirited. Who does that?
He was also head of the local Rotary Club. Do they let any angry man run that group? The club has done its best to erase all mentions of its connection to Bashara. Was he a great guy who did you wrong? Or did he do such a good job of glad-handing and bringing in money that they put up with him? It was never quite squared in trial. 
There were some lighter moments in a dark setting. He used to go out to the golf course in ritzy Grosse Pointe and do blow and smoke weed with a buddy, and we're talking in recent yeas. That he knocked back lines and joints on the golf course of the local country club was amusing to me; I’m sure he wasn’t the only one doing such a thing.

I wrote about the case at the outset of the trial for the Daily Beast.  We’re done. The jurors will do its best to figure it out after taking nine weeks out of their lives to listen to a parade of characters, some pissed off, some amusing and a few sad depressing. 
Bashara came into the courtroom on Monday whistling, ebullient. He’s apparently confident that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he procured the murder. Hang on. It could get good.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

No Joe Gentz: Where is the state of Michigan hiding a convicted murderer?

Joseph John Gentz
Earlier this week, I was working on a story on the Bob Bashara murder trial for the Daily Beast and realized that on September 25, I had written a letter to Joe Gentz, the man who confessed to killing Jane Bashara in January 2012.
The letter came back a week later with the words “out for writ” written on the front of the unopened envelope, meaning he has been moved somewhere else awaiting a court date.  This was at least a week in advance of jury selection, a process Gentz would have no reason to attend. I called and emailed the Michigan Department of Corrections on Monday to inquire when Gentz was moved. Predictably, in a state where the citizens are viewed by government employees as a cash cow/annoyance, no response. 
Still, I thought perhaps the prosecution would want him to be closer to the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in downtown Detroit, where the case is being heard.
I checked the Wayne County inmate search several times Tuesday and no Joe Gentz. I called the jail on Tuesday afternoon and asked. No, Joe Gentz was not in the jail.
I asked her to double check. Again, no Gentz.
At 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, I got an email from Russ Marlan from Michigan DOC:
“This prisoner is currently housed in the Wayne County Jail as his trial will begin shortly.  He will remain at the Wayne County Jail until the conclusion of this case.  You can contact the Wayne County Sheriff Department for additional information.”
Check the jail website again. No Gentz. So the question becomes, where is Joe Gentz? He’s been in trouble since being locked up in March 2012. He has defied guards, fought with fellow inmates and in general been disruptive.
Are they hiding him to ensure he stays out of trouble in the weeks leading up to the trial? Any recent trouble would be one more of many fallible points the defense can exploit in its cross-examination of Gentz. And how much is this secretive housing costing the taxpayer?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fix video surfaces Fresno, 7/4/81

July 4, 1981, Fresno, Calif.
Funny how you remember things, and I was prompted by this footage from Fresno, Calif., to do so.
This is early in the set, we opened with “Signal”, part of which is seen here.  Then go into an unrecorded song that I can’t remember and another. We’d rewrite these and move parts, they were flexible elements of the set, setting up songs like “Rat Patrol” and “Off to War.”
The Fix came to play this July 4 show opening for the Dead Kennedys at the behest of Biafra, who was kindly good-mouthing our first single. We got into town, did a sound check and left.
Anything is better than hanging around a venue all night waiting to play. Nothing good comes of that.
We were staying at the home of Ralph, the singer from Capitol Punishment, a local band. His parents were out of town, he lived with his parents. Nice place. although it didn't take much to impress us. It was a place grown ups lived. (BTW, Ralph's bandmate, Dale, is doing a great job in recent years of documenting those years in Fresno) 
On the way back to the Belmont Ballroom, we stopped for some food. This was a part of the tour where we still had some money left over from playing Texas and Arizona. We ended up being late to get back, and the promoter was cool but you could tell he wanted us to get the fuck up there. Missed 7 Seconds, who opened. I look at this video and realize we stood real close together, the Michigan guys against this crowd. At one point, a guy came from behind me out of nowhere and launched himself off the stage as the crowd started to dig into the pit halfway through.
That night we went back to Ralph’s and had a pretty good party.  At one point we had a blackout, the kind where the electricity went down. A couple nights later we headed over to Reno to play against with 7 Seconds. About a week after that, we recorded Jan’s Rooms in LA at the Music Lab with Spot. We weren’t making any mistakes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Jimmy Recca talks Stooges in a Detroit Rock City outtake

Jimmy Recca, former Stooge, in his inimitable, animated ramble, on writing “I Got a Right” and entering Stoogeland as the bassist. This is an outtake from Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock 'n' Roll in America's Loudest City (Da Capo 2013)

Recca: I joined the band around February 1970. The song that was first recorded by the band the three of us, Ron [Asheton], James [Williamson]and myself as a way to break the ice and to get Ron to accept me as a bass player was “I Got A Right.” We all had the same input on it. We had a lot more songs, but my performance rights to those songs, well, that's why they never did any of those other songs after I left.
Also, they never reproduced them because they were too complex and James couldn't remember, to tell you the truth. He had very little to do with anything other than his parts, his riffs. He had his riffs, I had my riffs, Ron had his riffs. Nobody tries to write a person out of history when that's the way it is. I was there and those guys don't want to write me out of history because they don't want to go back to remember what they can't remember. The only thing they remember is that song, “I Got a Right.” Ron knew it and that's why Ron and I finally got along so well, he knew my ability in that band you know. It took at least seven rehearsals before Ron would even say a fucking word to me. He wouldn't even look at me. He didn't like me. He had that fucking rock star thing like ‘I don't have to accept you if I don't want to. Say whatever you want to. It doesn't matter what you say, we didn't join you, you joined us.’

And I think for the most part, none of it was going to fucking matter, nothing was going to come out of it. Ron started feeling the pangs of James hooking up with Scotty because Scotty and James were the same age and they kind of hung out together and James was getting into the band through Scotty [Asheton]  and Scotty was promoting him to come to rehearsal. Ron was not digging that at all. When things get to him, you know he's fucking caustic, man. But he would get over it eventually. So that's the way it was with James and him and that's how it went on.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Wayne Kramer talking about reading bad review of MC5 while tripping

Wayne Kramer still remembers reading Lester Bangs’ bad review of Kick Out The Jams in Rolling Stone. From the review: Most of the songs are barely distinguishable from each other in their primitive two-chord structures. You've heard all this before from such notables as the Seeds, Blue Cheer, Question Mark and the Mysterians, and the Kingsmen.
Wayne K: My entire motivation was a knee jerk reaction to the criticism I got from Lester Bangs. His review in Rolling Stone fucked me up.  I was on acid, I read the review on acid, and I’m young and creative and believing the hype, and my heart sank. He was a young writer, trying to make his bones, so he thought he’d say something provocative and contrary to the current consensus, as people were loving the MC5. And he was going to come out and say 'these guys talk a good game, but they can’t tune their own guitars.' Writers had been coming out on junkets and then writing glowing reviews about us, hired by the record label. It was paid for. Like most people, I thought you got in the paper on merit. That isn’t how it really works in the world. So I’m on acid, and I’m reading the review, and the guy is just ripping us apart. It got to me because I knew there were great weaknesses in the band and the music, the rhythm section in particular. The bass playing and the drumming.

Friday, June 27, 2014

"American Band" came from pissed off...American band. Don Brewer explains

There are all kinds of stories about how the song "We're An American Band" came to be, and I had to ask Brewer, I'm sure for the hundredth time, about it. It never made it into the book, Detroit Rock City, but I'm always interested in all things Grand Funk, as everyone should be,

Don Brewer, drummer, Grand Funk, on writing the song, “We're An American Band”: There was some rumor goin’ around at times -- and I’ve seen it written, over and over, actually, I think I even saw it on Wikipedia –that we came up with the concept for “American Band” because we got into a fight with Humble Pie one night about who’s better, the English bands or the American bands. That wasn’t the case at all. I came up with that concept for “American Band” from us being sued by Terry Knight, traveling around from town to town, being sued at every city we were playing at, and I’m goin’, in my head I’m goin’, ‘we’re coming to your town, we’ll help you party it down. ‘That what I thought was happening, and then later the term came up -- popped into my head -- ‘we’re an American band.’ I needed a tag line for it. It had absolutely nothing to do with the English bands or anything.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Typical week in the life of Mitch Ryder’s great band, Detroit

Johnny Bee was among the best of the older subjects I interviewed for Detroit Rock City. Once he started telling stories, he didn’t seem to be able to stop, which is why he was included in quite a bit of the book. You can’t deny his greatness and his experience.
I decided to focus on the band Detroit because it represented Ryder’s last big chance to make it big. He made a great album and no one seemed to notice.
When I was interviewing Ray Goodman, who played with Mitch for a while, he mentioned he had some outtakes from the Detroit album sessions and we went into the control room of Goodman’s home studio. Sure enough, there were versions of songs with Johnny Bee singing, demos, and some covers I’d never heard, including a Sly and the Family Stone tune. I mentioned that it would be great to see that stuff released as a deluxe reissue double lp and connected Goodman up with Bob Ezrin, who produced the album. Maybe someone will have the good sense to organize that some day.

Johnny Badanjek, drummer Mitch Ryder, on Detroit (the band):

We played everywhere, anywhere, all the time. One summer, we played two sets on a Friday night in Detroit and we stayed up all night then headed to Carbondale, Illinois. Go to the hotel, a Howard Johnson's. They put us in back where the pool is and no one can see us. After Carbondale, we drive to St. Louis, play, go to another Howard Johnson's to finally sleep, then catch a 7 a.m. flight to go to Washington DC to play the May Day rally with the Beach Boys. There's like 200,000 people there. We play and Steve Hunter wears his Army uniform. Not a great idea for the time. We play and leave, we're going back to National Airport and the Army comes in and starts giving everyone shit, it got real violent. But we’re out of there. We got back to the airport and flew back to St. Louis and drove two more hours back to Carbondale, Illinois, and played two more sets without any sleep. We haven't gone to bed yet since before the May Day show. Then we went back to the hotel with 15 girls and everybody got naked and was using the sauna and swimming. This was how we were living. We had real bikers hanging around us all the time, you know, bikers love Mitch. They all wanted to hear “Devil With a Blue Dress On.” We were also playing a lot of Hell's Angels parties and all the outlaw clubs. We'd play and they'd all be fighting. It was like a crazy wedding party or something. We’d play for an hour and a half and we’d take a break and the whole place would break out in a riot. The guy in charge would go, “Play! Get up there and play! Maybe they'll stop.” The Outlaws, the Vigilantes, all these biker gangs, they’d have us in to play their parties.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dennis Thompson of the MC5 on playing over the volume of Sonic Smith and Wayne Kramer

Dennis Thompson, drummer MC5: Well, I wasn’t impervious to the volume when the boys bought Marshalls.  You see, back in those days the PA systems in the clubs we played were very very primitive. And drummers were never mic’ed.  So the guys had Marshalls and they played hard and loud, the volume was on 10.  I had to develop a style of playing extremely hard for the drums to cut through that wall of electrical sound. I had blood blisters underneath my skin, calluses on every one of my fingers on my left hand.  They would all explode every time I played so my left hand was just raw meat.
What I didn’t like about it was that I couldn’t play anything more delicately. You know, something more on the lines of, you know, 32nd notes and double-stroke rolls and things that require your wrists and not your arms. I had to use wrists and arms and play really fuckin’ hard for the drums to cut through.  I would get comments all the time that, you know, ‘Dennis you gotta play a little louder. ‘

So I would just hit until I was just really, really playing hard.  I was breaking cymbals.  Sinclair used to be so pissed.  But I was breaking 22” cymbals, one a week.  I’d go through 20 or 30 drum pairs of drumsticks per two shows, three shows. We used to order them by the gross, 5B and 2S.  Big.  2S is lumber.  That’s how you learned how to play the rudiments, with the big fat sticks.  Heavy sticks, so it builds up your wrist.  I’d break a rim on the snare drum, bass drum pedals, bass drum heads, tom tom heads. Unbelievable shit that I wouldn’t do now because nowadays you’ve got the remote in-ears and I’ve got the sound just the way I want it, dialed in, ‘cuz I’ve got a 16 track mixer. But back then, like I said, the band’s putting out a loud, ferocious sound that you had to play over.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Niagara on Ron Asheton in the later years - Detroit Rock City outtake

NIAGARA (Destroy All Monsters, Dark Carnival) : Ronnie ended up being a millionaire when he died. He would call me and say ‘I’m almost there.’ He really lived it up.  He bought all these collections, the Nazi stuff.  He bought a ceremonial dagger for like $12,000. When things started back with Iggy, he had money and he would say ‘you like this furniture?’ And I’d be like, ‘no, no.’
Whenever he went up north with the Colonel, he would buy me things like a fur coat.
Even after we split, he would come over and we’d stay up all night and talk and he’d stay the night and get high. So he used to stay here a lot. Then he got his place up north, near the lake up by Saginaw.[Michigan]. We used to hang out at antique places and he’d come in and they’d say ‘Ronnie, I got something you might like.’
He bought a decent place, more modern, perfect for him. Ronnie did the right thing. He always said ‘I’m only going to live 10 more years.’
When I was with him we bought a '66 Cadillac. We must have had some money at that time, because I was with him then.  
When he died, Ronnie was supposed to go out with us, January 4 is the Colonel’s birthday. So he called him a few times, and Ron didn’t answer which was normal. Ronnie never answered his phone, he just let it go to voice mail. But now the voice mail was full and that never happened. So a couple days later, Colonel said to me, ‘this is bad, there’s something wrong.’
I thought Ronnie was going to die but I wasn’t sure this was it. So we called [Asheton girlfriend] Dara, who Ronnie bought a house for a few doors down.
We called her and said ‘go see Ronnie.’  She said, ‘we had a fight, fuck him, he’s a clown, I’m not going over there,’ and finally she said ‘ok.’
It was the middle of the night and she went and called us back and said he’s dead. He was in his bed. Ron was not taking care of himself and he would not go to a doctor. Those tours were really strenuous and he was always on stage doing his thing. One night he woke up and his nose was running and he put a Kleenex in it and when he woke up there was blood all over it.  Something had burst.
He had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and he wasn’t fat, he had like, from waist down he was so skinny and he had been losing weight.
He was so skinny with the Stooges that he always looked bigger.
Anyway, he was smoking and drinking and taking the high blood pressure pills, which he ran out of and he wasn’t going to get more.
I was always telling him to think about it. Ronnie hated anything new and I never got him started back on the pills.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Feds response to Juggalo gang lawsuit: No damages

It has received no attention, but the federal government filed its initial response in April to the action filed earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan on behalf of Juggalos, who claim that their constitutional rights to expression and association were violated by when the FBI designated them as a gang in 2011.
“Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge a report known as the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, an intelligence assessment made by the National Gang Intelligence Center at the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the introduction to the response states, a common argument in such cases.
The response goes on to claim that the plaintiffs – four Juggalos and the two members of Insane Clown Posse – showed no direct damages due to the gang assessment.
It also claims that the alleged damages cited in the complaint, which was filed in January, did not come at the hands of the defendant. That would be a base-covering assertion, just in case the court didn't buy the 'no damages' thing. 
“To the extent the allegation of injury by the FBI’s intelligence analysis is plausible, any injury involves the conduct of independent third parties, not before the Court, who are not even regulated by the Defendant agencies,” the argument reads.
The defendant is the U.S. Department of Justice. Read the response here.
There is a highly dubious assertion near the end of the fed’s response, which is a fairly standard petition and asks that the case be dismissed.
“The [National Gang Intelligence Center] does not collect or maintain information that does not relate to criminal activity.”
This is quite a statement in light of Edward Snowden’s disclosures last year regarding surveillance conducted by the federal government on U.S. citizens, which includes accessing Google and Yahoo accounts.
No decision has been made regarding the motion to dismiss, although it would be an eyebrow raiser if any court were to let this one go away without more argument. The fun will come if it gets to discovery, where the feds will be required to disclose more information.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Iggy Pop talks about Jack White not recording the Stooges

photos, 2003, Mojo (www.mickhutson.com)
A largely unknown part of a book like Detroit Rock City is the portion that is never seen. In movies, it’s called the cutting room floor, and these days you can see what ended up on that floor through DVD extras. We aren’t smart enough to come up with that in the book world, and “updated” has little of the panache of an "extra." So what didn't make it into Detroit Rock City for any number of reasons? I'll be running some of these extras once a week or so over the summer. 
Check it out.

IGGY POP (on Jack White producing a post-reformation Stooges recording) : It was one of these things, it went back and forth two or three times. I heard he [White] wanted to do it and I thought that could work in the group’s favor for a couple of reasons, but I didn’t want to do a whole record, I just wanted to do a few tracks. That was mostly because I had already recorded some of that record, that record, this was around the time we did Skull Ring, and I needed to respect the fact that I had already recorded half of that record with my touring band, The Trolls.
I wasn’t going to tell them, or call them up “Hey I’m going to work with a bigger star than you and fuck all your work.”  I can’t do that to an artist. So I offered him a few tracks and Jack being Jack, said, “well I don’t want to do that, I want to do a whole thing.”  
Yes, of course and he wouldn’t want to be a part of something else, being a Jack White production. Let’s just say I felt where he was coming from.
At one point I felt I was just about ready to do it and we were having a conversation and the last thing he had to say was, “Okay I’ll call you up when I have time.”
I put down the phone and part of me was like, “fuck you kid.” I didn’t say anything because I’m not a confrontational person, so we didn’t do it at that point. And he had some good concepts, it would have been interesting. But I think what we would have ended up with would be a kinda indie reality show. He wanted to lock us in a house together and record the results. The idea was nobody would leave until we had an album done. I think had we agreed that very quickly cameras would have come into it.
It would have been interesting... At one point there was a lot of pressure from the record company, “What are you crazy, you’re not going to play with Jack White?” Blah blah blah. At one point I was ready to do it and I think he wasn’t. Then much later he was ready to do it and we had a lunch about it in Australia. But at that point I had a meeting with Ron and Scott and Ron said, “Look, for me that would be like all of the glory of it would be about Jack White and not about me.” And he made a gesture if someone was sitting on his head. And Scott said to me, “Yeah the way I see it, Jack White is a pot of gold and we don’t want to be part of his pot of gold.”

What I said to the guys is, “Hey look, that is absolutely fine with me. But as the leader of the group,” which I finally did become in this century, “I gotta let you know that if you do it with Jack, you’re going to sell more and get more attention, but it’s also true, due to market forces, the result will emphasize Jack’s participation.” I told them, “I have no opinion at all, I could go either way.” And so we didn’t, we ended up not doing it, which was fine with Jack and we’re friendly.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Salvo in Bid for Interview Tapes of Manson Acolyte Watson

Stepped in to help
The Los Angeles Police Department has violated the California Public Records Act in turning back a bid to obtain the tapes of Manson henchman Tex Watson.  The remedy is a letter from esteemed lawyer Dean Wallraff of the California Public Records Access Project. Read it here
From the letter: You have violated the Public Records Act by failing to respond in writing with the determination required by Pub. Res. Code § 6253(c). You continue to violate it by failing to provide the documents Mr. Miller requested. There is no reason it should take over four months for you to provide what can’t amount to more than a handful of responsive documents.
Dean stepped in to help someone from out of state, and he has little to gain from this. This should be an example to all of the other so-called First Amendment groups out there who do very very little for the public. Dean is the fourth stop for me as I searched for some help on this. 
The tapes have a tale of their own. They were partly used for Watson’s little-read book, Will You Die for Me?, published on a small press in 1978.  The tapes were recorded in 1969 after Watson was arrested in Texas in connection with the Sharon Tate-LaBianca murders in LA.
The LAPD obtained the tapes a couple of years ago and contends they are being used to investigate some unsolved crimes.
The LAPD refused a request for the tapes themselves last year.  The department then disregarded an appeal letter.
It takes a lot of work to fight operations like the LAPD who profess to care about the public but also care about protecting their pensions and maintaining a team of bureaucrats to keep the public at bay.
It’s a worthwhile battle. I hope it doesn’t end up in court, as it’s the public’s money the department would spend to wage a defense.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Stooges Were The Best Rock and Roll Band Ever

Since the June elease of my last book, Detroit Rock City, The Uncensored History of Rock ‘n Roll in America’s Loudest City, I’ve talked many times about the importance of the Stooges on the international musical landscape. It took that platform for me to realize and finally utter something unsettlingly ultimate: The Stooges were the best rock and roll band to ever exist.
These kinds of ultimate statements are generally ridiculous. In books, I may feel that Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, Jack London’s White Fang and Robert Greenfield’s STP: A Journey Through America With the Rolling Stones, are among the best ever written. In film, I am sure that Down by Law, Angel Heart and Nebraska are among the top 20.
But never have I been so certain that in the field of music that a band measures so highly in terms of courage, which should be the metric of any expression. Not courage by being outrageous, but by being something and doing something that no one would dare do, without a concern for the consequences.
The passing of Scott Asheton over the weekend reminds me of the greatness of the band for the third time in a week for no apparent reason other than to ponder their fearlessness. All the band's music music - including the Fun House box, the extended versions of the first album, the Raw Power box with the DVD and the Easy Action outtakes package - are in constant rotation, part of the soundtrack of life.
I’m currently working in Tallahassee, Fla., on a 10-week assignment. I’m staying in a lower floor apartment in a three-building enclave in the south part of town, and about a week ago on a Saturday morning I was working and heard the muffled crescendo of “Ann” from the first Stooges record. drifting through my open window from up the stairs.
It was the extended version, which gave me time to walk up the stairs and find the source, a 30-something post college guy in his little cinderblock studio, getting schooled. I knocked and said simply, “the Stooges.” Instead of being puzzled or taken aback by a stranger knocking on his door, he just nodded and said “yes. Great.” I walked back down the stairs.
That’s all it takes to connect on that level.
I’m sorry for the family and friends of Asheton, who I’m sure are still stung by the sudden death of Scott’s brother Ron in 2009. Their loss has nothing to do with the Stooges, but with a loved family member. People tend to forget that when bemoaning the death of someone “important.”
From the book, Detroit Rock City:

Scott Asheton: If you think about what was going on at that time, in the early 70s, we were so far harder rock out there than anybody else out there at the time that why we didn’t fit in. When you think was going on was kinda glittery, kinda gayish, kind of going taking the edge off of it, other bands of that era were not even close to rockin’ like we were. I’d say the biggest reason that stuff didn’t do well is because we were rocking too hard.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sarah Pender To Return to General Prison Population

Pender in 2008, at the time of her arrest
While Sarah Pender was denied an appeal last week, she has been removed from the solitary confinement cell she has lived in since being apprehended following a prison escape in 2008, according to a report in a prisoner advocacy journal.
Pender writes in an article for Solitary Watch, a journal that examines the practice of solitary confinement in our corrections system:
I am confined to my cell 22 hours each day, and the other 2 hours am handcuffed and escorted 25 feet down the hallway to another locked room for “recreation and exercise,” though the space is only twice the size of my cellDespite knowing that isolation can drive people insane, the mental health care here is woefully inadequate. Once a month, a mental health staff comes to ask us if we are hallucinating, hearing voices, or are suicidal. More frequent meetings can be requested, but they offer no coping skills, no therapy, no advocacy. The luckiest among us are prescribed anti-depressants to numb us from the hardest parts of being alone. I am fortunate to have incredible support from my family and friends. To pass the time, I read, write, learn and plan for the future when I can be with them again. What sanity I eek out of these letters, books, phone calls and visits is enough to sustain me just a little longer. I am mentally stable now, but my mind broke down under the weight of isolation 3 1/2 years ago, and it was a long, slow, painful process of putting myself back together.
She is living in a transition dorm before returning to general population, according to Solitary Watch. 

Pender is serving 110 years for her role in a double homicide in 2000. Pender escaped from prison in 2008 and spent 136 days hiding in plain site before being captured. My book, Girl, Wanted, details her time on the run. From the book, this is where Pender is talking to Ryan Harmon, the cop who doggedly chased her while she was temporarily free. This is from a tape I obtained in the course of my reporting:
“I don’t have a sink, and I can’t flush my toilet. I can’t open or close my door, I can’t turn off my own light. I have a video camera in my room, I can’t make phone calls, I can’t have visits. I can’t even flush my own toilet. I’m in like the suicide room . . . the other rooms can’t talk to me. My door has to be closed at all times. If I come out of my room, all the doors have to be closed. They are not allowed to talk to me. The Commissioner said as a direct order, ‘If you talk to her you’ll get written up.’ The staff can’t even talk to me. The staff can only talk to me if I am asking them for something I need, like if I need my toilet flushed or I need a pencil sharpener. Like I could not even get a pencil for like five days; I think it was more like a week. They ask me if I want ice or whatever and I can say yes. But other than that there is no conversation. They cannot talk to me like a normal person. No conversation outside my immediate needs. And if it’s like a male officer they cannot even speak to me at all unless there’s someone else there. I can’t have my own clothes in there; everyone else has their own clothes. They have to bring me mine. I just now got my hygienes. I use to not be able to brush my teeth until I took a shower and when I take a shower . . . everyone else can just get let into the shower. I have to get locked in a cage in the shower. So that I am handcuffed at all times and I have no contact with the people. If I come out of my room there has to be three people on the floor. Two officers and the third has to be a supervisor or a man. Oh, it’s insane.
“I couldn’t have any mail at all for like the first week and a half. And then when they finally came over and interviewed me . . . they finally let me have a pencil and paper and they told me I could receive mail right now but I couldn’t order commissary so I have no stamps and envelopes to send out so my parents must think like ‘What’s going on?’ You get what they feed you. . . . which is really bad food.”

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Salvation Mountain, One of the Great American Destinations

Sitting on a (Salvation) Mountain
A couple of years ago I was wandering in the desert and pulled into the town of Calipatria, Calif.  It was a weekday morning in June, around 9 a.m., and I wanted to take a walk and get some water.  I went into a store and this biker dude behind the counter started talking to me, asking me where I was from etc. I told him I came to the desert every summer to hike, and he reminded me that Salvation Mountain was still active but that Leonard Knight, the fine character who created it, was ailing and in a home.
Supplies at Salvation Mountain
Leonard died Monday but Salvation Mountain, a painted hillside in the middle of nowhere, will probably endure. I went out from Calipatria to the place that day in 2012.  A video crew, with talent trailer and a box truck of gear, was setting up to do a promo for a Web company. Other than that, I had the place to myself. I walked up to the top of the “mountain” and further on to the water tanks at the back of the lot, which are fully engulfed in spray paint art. Graffiti seems too stuffy a term for the excellent work.
The first time I went to Salvation Mountain was
in the late 90s, and Leonard was out there. It was early evening and
Water tank art
I had heard about some resentment over the attention the mountain was getting from the residents of Slab City, an encampment just down the road a bit.
Slab City is a place for people who just want to keep away from everything. They have their various reasons, but it’s an amazing little power generator place, with community activities and an informal system of governance. That is, don’t fuck our shit up here. 
Some of the people had threatened Leonard. He wasn’t taking it personally.
“Ah, they’re just talking, they’re just looking for something to say,” was how he shrugged it off when I talked to him that night.  Slab City looks pretty scary at night, and some of the people who reside there have had an acquaintance with the criminal justice system.
But he was an easy-going guy, sitting in the middle of nowhere and pretty happy about it.  He had no power, no running water and no worries.

I wasn’t working on any story, I was just curious. I left with some postcards of the mountain that Leonard gave me, a few of which I still have.  Salvation Mountain is one of America’s great destinations and Leonard Knight can rest knowing he did something cool on his own terms.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Esquire magazine 1971 on Alice Cooper: "...Four guys in drag."

AC: Or was that three guys?
Dangerous Minds wisely yanks an old issue of Esquire magazine from September 1971 and examines an insert that purports to be a musical guide to college students. As usual, most of Esquire’s tastes are bland and blander. But it also warns the future pencil pushers of America of some music.
For example, on the Stooges first lp – yes, a couple years late – it claims “lead singer Iggy Pop leaps into audiences, smears his half-naked body with peanut butter, tears his lips open by hitting his mouth with the microphone, and stabs himself viciously with shattered drumsticks.”
Of Alice Cooper, Esquire’s crack music staff claims of the band about to go platinum,  “posthumous rock by four guys in drag.” Umm, that’s five guys.
By the way, Esquire’s musical writing today is similarly unadventurous and uninformed.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Read Complaint: Frontier Records Files Legal Action Against Italian Record Label

I love the legal action that has sprung up involving punk rock litigants.  We went over the Black Flag cases last year and now we’re on to the Kix v. Adolescents. Stems from the altogether terrific Frontier Records, run by the estimable Lisa Fancher and home of some excellent bands including Redd Kross, Circle Jerks and TSOL confronting an Italian label that calls itself Frontiers Records, home to some pretty sad shit including Styx, Stryper and Great White.
The confused fans of the Italian label are emailing Lisa at Frontier and asking about tickets to Whitesnake and giving props to Kix.
“Wrong label, you’re looking for Frontiers Records from Italy!” is Lisa’s way cool response to one query, resisting the urge to rip on these poor guys.

Here’s the complaint filed by Frontier in hopes of getting the Pat Travers fans off her back.