My 22nd birthday party

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Since its my birthday I was thinking back on some of my more memorable birthdays. One I’ll never forget is my 22nd birthday back in 1978, 40 years ago.

I was staying at a friend of mine’s studio apartment at the time. And his little sister happened to be in town for a visit. So she was there too. And she happened to be one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. Then or now. She was 19, naturally blonde — short hair, sort of a modified Beatles moptop though more styled and sexy — big blue eyes and long, long legs. She told me she was making a good living putting herself through college by working as a “go-go dancer.”

Anyways we were all hanging out at my friend’s apartment that night celebrating my birthday. So I was getting a little more attention than usual. She bought me a big jug of California burgundy — which was my drink of choice back then — for a birthday present. And we were all just kicking back and loosening up. When my friend and his girlfriend said they were going out to see a movie for the evening. So suddenly it was just me and her alone in the apartment.

After a couple of tall glasses of wine (I was drinking fast, believe me) she said: “Would you like to see my go-go dancing routine?”

“Well sure,” I said.

“OK,” she said. “Put some music on that I can dance to while I put on my dancing clothes.”
She grabbed a little bundle of clothes and hustled off to the bathroom to change. I went into my friend’s bedroom where he had his stereo — and a great collection of rock albums — and sorted through the records for something suitable to play. For some reason I picked the second side of David Bowie’s “Low” album. 25 minutes of this moody avant-garde synthesizer space-out mood music.

She came out of the bathroom wearing this frilly white negligee that barely covered her butt, fishnet stockings, and shiny black spiked high-heels that made her wobble when she walked. She spent about two seconds trying to dance to Bowie’s space-out music and said: “I can’t dance to THAT!”

She went back into the bedroom and picked out a rock album that actually had a beat and a drummer to it. And as the music filled the room, she lowered the lights to this electric glow. And then she looked at me with a sly smile on her face and said — and I’ll never forget this because she really did — “I am going to blow your mind.”

She shuffled around the room for awhile on her high-heels dancing to the music. While I sat there rigid in my chair, clenching my glass of burgundy in my hand for dear life. And pretty soon she was out of her negligee and wearing nothing but a white half-bra and a tiny white g-string that left very little to the imagination. And then pretty soon there was nothing left to the imagination. As she swayed around the room dancing, she’d stop now and then to strike these very dramatic and erotic poses. All the while looking back at me with an amused and intense smile on her face (I probably had a look on my face like one of those stunned cartoon characters where their eyes are bulging out and their slobbering tongues are going straight down to the floor).

But the picture that is permanently imprinted in the mind’s-eye of my memory: At one point she sauntered over to me, turned around, bent over, and stuck her big round ass just inches away from my face, that tiny white g-string clinging up her crack. I can still see that image to this day clear as a bell. I’ll probably take that image with me to my grave. Ha ha.

After awhile the album side of music finally came to an end. And she stood there in front of me with her hands on her hips, looking straight at me like: “It’s your move now, boy!”

But I just sat there in my chair frozen stiff. I was stunned really. I think it was the first time a woman had ever aggressively sexually propositioned me. Let alone one of the most beautiful and sexy women on the planet. So I was at a complete loss as to how to proceed next. Actually, I always had the worst instincts when it came to navigating through the mating ritual between men and women. I would spend most of my adult life “making my move” at the exact wrong time when I shouldn’t make my move. And NOT “making my move” at the exact time when I should make my move. What can I say? I was hopelessly dim-witted, hopelessly mis-wired, in that regard. And would pay a bitter price for it over the years.

Finally when she realized I wasn’t going to jump on her bones she picked up her negligee from the floor, rolled it into a ball and playfully tossed it at my head. I think she was exasperated and confused that things hadn’t moved to the next logical step. I’m sure it didn’t happen to her very often.

She laughed and went back into the bathroom to change back into her street clothes. And we spent the rest of my birthday drinking burgundy and listening to rock music.

Later I typed up an account of the evening. And sent it off to this local porn paper that published reader’s sex fantasy. And to my surprise they printed it. I think it was the first piece of writing I ever got published. And I mailed her a copy. And ya know what? I wouldn’t be surprised if that blew HER mind a little bit. Because I had captured in words — just like a photographer — all the strange and magical moments of that evening.



Some random pages from Twisted Image #1

I always get a kick out of stumbling across bits and pieces of my past on the internet. Not the least because some of it is from so long ago — this issue of Twisted Image #1 is from the summer of 1982 — that I barely remember it myself. Last night I came across two different people who were selling this issue on eBay. Merely 30 bucks . . .  With my luck I won’t attain “highly collectible” status until long after I’m dead.



The staff.

An ad.

The back cover to Twisted Image #1.




Bye, bye Bowie


Diamond Dogs full spread eagled coverI first saw David Bowie in the summer of 1974 at Madison Square Garden.  New York City, baby.  Age 17.  The “Diamond Dogs” tour. . . I don’t think I had actually heard any of David Bowie’s music at the time.  Aside from maybe “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople (which Bowie wrote).

My older sister’s boyfriend was a huge David Bowie fan.  Which was weird.  Because he was mostly a Grateful Dead Deadhead.  And you wouldn’t think that somebody like that would be a David Bowie fan, too.  But there you go.  Anyways, he had an extra ticket for the Madison Square Garden show. So I tagged along.

I knew that Bowie was a big sensation in England at the time.  The leading light of the “Glitter Rock” movement.  The Next Big Thing according to the media.  But he hadn’t quite caught on in America yet.   Though the media hype machine was pushing hard.   Bowie — who was always one step ahead of the game — captured his own phenomenon perfectly with his Diamond Dogs album cover.  Presenting himself as a Barnum and Bailey freak show.

Myself?  I was a 17-year-old high school jock at the time who was just beginning to dabble with LSD.  So the whole David Bowie thing seemed a little too gay and campy for my tastes.  But what the hell.  I couldn’t turn down a free ticket.

I still vividly remember that Diamond Dogs show 41 years later.  Big dramatic entrance.  Bowie reciting his “rats as big as cats” soliloquy.  This apocalyptic rant.  Ending with him shouting:  “THIS ISN’T ROCK’N’ROLL THIS IS GENOCIDE!!”  And then bursting into the music.  And David Bowie bursts onto the stage.  And he’s got these two half dog / half-human creatures that he’s holding on long leashes.  And they’re scampering across the stage like barely-controlled wild animals while Bowie is singing.  A helluva’ entrance.

And, unlike so many other concerts, Bowie held your attention for the entire rest of the show.  There was something captivating and magnetic about Bowie.  You couldn’t take your eyes off of him.  But it wasn’t just Show Biz schtick.  Even at age 17 I could tell there was a high intelligence behind the sensation.  Something conceptual.  The allusions to Orwell’s “1984” and all the rest of it.   For once there was some real substance behind the Next Big Thing hype. 

There was also this zany humor along with the outrageousness.   And people forget:  This was the era of “jam rock” where rock stars took the stage wearing blue jeans and work shirts and turned their backs to the audience and did 20 minute guitar solos.  It was very innovative for the times, the way Bowie put together this show that was choreographed almost like a Broadway theater production, but without losing the spontaneity and rawness that made rock music so great in the first place.  But the bottom line (which sometimes got lost in the mix because of all of Bowie’s other talents) was that Bowie was an extremely tuneful songwriter, belting out one great song after another.

What can I say.  I became a life-long David Bowie fan after that Diamond Dogs show in 1974.  And I’ve enjoyed just about everything David Bowie has done since then.


The human personality — what a concept!

Persona is derived from the Latin word for mask.

When I was a younger man, I thought the human personality was a lot more pliable than it actually is.  I thought I could change my basic personality with relative ease.  Switch from being an introvert to an extrovert at will.  Resolve my phobias.  Or at least switch to different phobias.   Like that.

I was greatly influenced by the rock star David Bowie at the time.  Bowie was famous for constantly changing his image and his persona and even, seemingly, his basic personality.

So I harbored this stupid notion that the human personality was pliable.  That it was like how actors picked and chose whatever role they wanted to play.  We could pick any personality we wanted.

As Timothy Leary — one of the biggest imbeciles of the 20th century — once famously said:  “You can be anything you want this time around.”   What a WONDERFUL notion.  To bad it’s completely false.

I wrongly assumed that our personality was basically just a social construct.  It was a mask we put on, mostly as a way to function in society.  And that, like with masks in general, we could take them off and on.  I wasn’t even sure if there was anything behind the mask.  It was like the famous Kurt Vonnegut line:  “Be careful who you pretend to be.  Because that’s who you become.”

I spent 40 years trying to smooth out the rough edges of my personality.  With little success.  I spent 40 years trying to un-warp my warped psychology.  With little success.  After undergoing endless therapies, I’m still basically the exact same person I was when I was 17.

When I was younger I was always hoping for a big, cathartic experience.  Where I’d be “born again.”  And heal my wounded psyche.  Become a new person.

Nowadays, I realize, if I can make any changes, make any improvements, in my basic character.  They will probably come in small increments.  If that.


The best concert I ever went to


Its impossible to pick the best concert I ever went to.  Because I’ve been to so many great concerts.  And they were great for so many different reasons.  So it’s impossible to compare them.  The Watkins Glenn Festival (Grateful Dead, the Band, Allman Bros.) in 1973.  Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1974.  David Bowie “Diamond Dogs tour” in 1975.  Randy California and Spirit in 1975.  Fear at the Elite Club in 1982 . . . Just to name a few off the top of my head.

But the Sex Pistols show in San Francisco in 1978 really stands out, if only for the historical factor.  Not just because it was their final show before they broke up.  But because that tour ushered in the Punk Rock movement as a cultural force.  And also because, for the first time, it was somebody (Johnny Rotten) of my age (20) and my generation (high school class of 1974) that was up there on that stage.

Before that it had pretty much been an endless succession of ’60s retreads.  The Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Starship, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, on and on.  The ’60s cast a long shadow on my generation.   Especially in the fields of the arts and media — writing, music, punditry, etc.  There was a log-jam clogged up by the sheer bulk that was the ’60s generation.  They had gotten in there first, hogged up all the good positions, and my generation was left scrambling for whatever crumbs were left over.  It would be like that all throughout the ’70s and ’80s.

A typical example is a ’70s phenomenon like the TV comedy show  “Saturday Night Live.” A ’70s show, yes, but mostly starring John Belushi and all those guys — ’60s generation retreads, all.  And just as typical, when the original cast finally burned out and were replaced by comedians from the next generation, they would be lambasted and compared unfavorably with the “innovative” and “cutting edge” humor of the ’60s comedians.

It would be like that through my entire twenties.  This failure to live up to the greatness that was “the ’60s.”  The ’60s generation had gotten the ball rolling,  launching the revolution, expanding our consciousness, burning their bras and saving the environment.  Why, they had practically eradicated racism and brought about social justice.  But it was because of all the losers of my generation that the whole grand thing had sputtered out and collapsed.

The acid was always purer in the ’60s.  The pot was always stronger.  The love was always groovier.  And  the political activism was always more righteous (why, they burned their draft cards and stopped that war, man!!). By 1980 my generation had even been slurred with the derogatory term “yuppies.” In contrast to the  righteous “hippies” who were selfless in their devotion to creating a beautiful new society, curing the world of racism and sexism, as well as greed and world hunger, in between loving mother earth.  As compared to those greedy and self-centered “yuppies” who not only couldn’t care less about creating a better world of love and perfect harmony.  They just wanted to plug into the corrupt capitalist system like parasites, and exploit it for their own grubby personal gain.  Man!  We were the narcissistic “me generation.”  As opposed to the ’60s generation that I suppose saw themselves as the “we generation.”  Their altruism and all-round goodness knew no bounds.  At least according to the endless press releases they kept issuing attesting to the greatness that was themselves.

Even today,  you could fill entire libraries with nothing but the memoirs from the members of the ’60s generation.  Reminiscing fondly on those incredible days. Their heroic struggles, their incredible innovations that were nothing short of stunning in their brilliance compared to the dirtclods of the generations that preceded them and followed them.  Followed by the final chapter that detailed their stints in various re-hab centers where they heroically fought to avoid the dismal fate of self-destruction that had destroyed so many others from their lame-ass generation.  Followed by the up-lifting epilogue where we’re giving the opportunity to learn the many great lessons that the ’60s generation has to offer us.  The end.

So yeah, when Johnny Rotten hit that stage with his mockery and vitriol and sneering  at the pompous excesses that defined the ’60s, I could only think: Yeah!  About time!