Wednesday, December 31, 2008

done too soon

As the hours of the old year trickle down to less than a handful, I am reflecting on those who left us in 2008. Whether they be famous or family, there were a lot of significant losses in the last year.

I wanted to take a few moments to recall on some of those who left us in 2008. They need not be legends like Paul Newman, Kitty Carlisle, Beverly Sills or Eartha Kitt to be dearly missed. They need not have touched a million lives like Randy Pausch, or have pioneered for civil rights like Johnnie Carr or Del Martin. They need not have entered my teenage world weekly like Suzanne Pleashette, danced like Cyd Charisse or created art like Robert Rauschenberg. Some like Heath Ledger seemed to have so much road still before them.

Here's a tiny snapshot of some who left us, from the Los Angeles Times.

Before 2008 becomes history, let me say to all that you made a unique contribution to this shared consciousness known as society, and we thank each of you for the gifts you gave us.

In remembrance, here is a period BBC performance by a terribly young looking Neil Diamond, just beginning to hit his stride. From his 1970 album Tap Root Manuscript, surrounded by brass, here is Done Too Soon:

And each one there
Have one thing they shared
They have sweated beneath the same Sun
Looked up in wonder at the same Moon
And wept when it was all done
for being done too soon
For being sone too soon.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

a date with dita

Two years ago tonight, I saw Blondie live at the glamorous Key Club on the Sunset Strip with burlesque queen Dita von Teese. Pretty memorable evening, even if I didn't meet her.

Okay, let me clarify. She was seated at the table behind me, and although we made eye contact, we didn't speak. But we were kindred spirits that night. The day prior, she had filed for divorce from rocker Marilyn Manson. That same day, the straight boyfriend (TM) and I had attended the funeral of a mutual friend who lost control of his sports car on Dead Man's Curve right before Christmas.

The SB (TM) chose this highly emotional event to admit to me that I was now being supplanted by a female. This went over about as well as the proposed Automaker bailout package did in Alabama. As the concert was one of my Christmas gifts (the only one I actually saw) I agreed to go. And so I sat with him, on the last night that I would know him.

So there we were, Dita and I, licking our wounds (figuratively of course) to the awesome sounds of Debbie Harry. Mom always said, if you must suffer, do it in style. And while Dita and I both got through our respective losses, I sadly admit that she seems to have taken it better than I.

Two years and I simply don't date. I hang out with friends, coworkers, and my ex Michael, but I don't date. Not even a cup of coffee. In honesty, I think the horror of it all (ask me about the Loser Coffee House sometime) combined with my utter lack of recent experience are a knockout punch. It's not that I've forgotten how to ride the bike, I haven't seen the bike in years.

Which brings me to my courageous New Year's Resolution: At some point this year, I will attempt to go out on a date. I'm only promising to do this once, but it's certainly time to move forward. If it happens, y'all will be the first to know.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

last coquette

I'm terribly saddened today to learn of the passing of the last Coquette, the inimitable Eartha Kitt. She died this afternoon of complications of colon cancer at her Connecticut home at the age of eighty one.

With her closes an amazing era when glamour was described by completely different labels than it is today- Cadillacs, Millionaires, roulette wheels, Las Vegas, diamonds from Tiffany's, and cash- cash, cash cash. She made Golddigger into a fifties form of performance art and she was the last sex kitten standing. When last I saw her at the Cinegrill in Hollywood a few years back she still had It.

More than a voice, she stood up to Lady Bird Johnson opposing the war in 1966 and took her act to Europe to recover. She raised funds for Unicef and never seemed to change one iota to the very end. Her career went through a renaissance in the 80's when she recoreded club hits Where is My Man and Cha Cha Heels with Bronski Beat.

Of course, she is best known for 1954's Santa Baby, a wonderful Golddigger's guide to the holidays that was remade several times but never equalled. As much as I love that number, I think the only appropriate tribute to her is C'est Si Bon, in which she sings of the joy of her glamorous life.

In tribute to a woman who lived by her own rules, and in memory of a life well lived, C'est Si Bon


Well, I made it. Christmas morning and I'm still standing. Last year was too much and I just avoided the holiday. But this year, because she loved it so much, I jumped back into the water the best I could. I baked cookies. I went to parties. I hosted coworkers, and even created my online Christmas journal for you all to suffer through, my own special Advent Calendar From Hell.

And even though I didn't write about it every day, my lily girl has never been more than an inch away. There have been times when I didn't know how to keep going, but she never stopped and that has kept me more or less on track.

For Patsy, for my family in Michigan, for anyone missing a loved one today, and for all of you who keep me going, here is my Christmas wish for you- the most perfect voice with the most heartfelt Christmas song of all time:

Merry Christmas!



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

fah hoo forres

There isn't snow along the Pacific Ocean, but Christmas Eve 2008 brings light rain and fifty four degrees to Santa Monica. Here are tonight's holiday images from my beloved home on the shore of the Pacific and a quick look at the Santa Monica Pier as it awaits the arrival of Santa.

And for those of you who may not be Grinch certified, "Fah Hoo Forres" is sung by the Whos in Whoville each year to welcome Christmas.

Fah Hoo Forres
Dah Hoo Dorres
Welcome Christmas
Bring Your Light

No sign of reindeer as yet. Merry Christmas to all.

switch the turbos on

For Alto

The red car and the blue car had to race
To make it to the rave at Mama's Place.
It was early Christmas Eve
By the time that they could leave
Would they make it home for Christmas Day?

duelling mimis

We're almost there- one day to go. Going to keep with our "nice" theme today with a holiday double-dose of Mimi- Mariah Carey herself with my favorite modern day Christmas tune.

For my fabulous retro friends, who live in the past because the future is not what it used to be, who can do the swim and ther frug and know the names of every hairstyle of the Johnson Administration, here's an awesome sixties version with white go go boots and ironed hair to make the Ronettes jealous:

And for those who live for fabulousness, and who understand that what separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize, here's a version that's so far over the top it's already halfway down the other side- live from Disney World in Orlando, Christmas 2004, emerging from Sleeping Beauty's Castle, with giant wooden soldiers, a gaggle of boy dancers, giant gingerbread men, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Santa-hatted throngs and daytime fireworks. It's Mimi, and All I want for Christmas is You.

Whichever camp you prefer, retro or camp, enjoy your own personal Mimi.

All I want for Christmas is Y'all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

christmas shindig

Shindig! premiered in September of '64 as the first prime time youth-oriented music variety program. Hosted by popular LA Disc Jockey Jimmy O'Neill, it featured the hippest sounds, the hottest new acts, and go-go dancers called the Shin-Diggers.

There is no doubt the series helped fuel the British Invasion, and launched similar programs such as NBC's Hullalaboo. It was fully integrated, showcasing both black and white acts. It also gave us one of the most unique Christmas programs of the era.

I'm focusing on Shindig! Episode 16, which aired on December 23, 1964. The show featured guest acts Jack Good, an unknown Bobby Sherman, The Beach Boys, The Righteous Brothers, Donna Loren, and Marvin Gaye.

I'm showing you the third segment. In this clip, Donna Loren predates Phil Spector's 1965 Christmas Album with a very hip version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", a hiilarious period commercial is rebroadcast, and we hear a very unusual Holiday Medley from the Beach Boys, who owned the world in 1964. They bring us "Little Saint Nick", "The Monster Mash", "Oo Mow Mow," and "Johnny B. Goode". Out loud.

Yes, that's what I said. Um, Merry...Happy...Monster...whatever

Hope your Christmas isn't monstrous

Monday, December 22, 2008

winter wonderland

Okay, there's both naughty and nice on the Advent Calendar today, After all, time is short and there's so much Christmas still to share.

So crawl out from under the fallen tree and take a listen to the amazing Jason Mraz. I posted his charming and chill "I'm Yours" back in the springtime. It has since been nominated for a Grammy as Song of the Year. Turns out that in addition to being a top songwriter himself, he has a talent for putting his own unique spin on the classics as well.

For the folks and family in Flint, here's Winter Wonderland:

divine holiday

Ah, a quaint family Christmas with the Davenports. I do so hope that little Dawn likes those sensible black flats we got her. After all, she can be so.....difficult.

From Female Trouble, John Waters at his directorial peak. I know you've seen it but it's what makes the Holiday well, you know....Divine!

Hope your holiday goes better than theirs.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

animated gem

A tiny treasure. From CBS, first shown for Christmas 1966. Stunning in its simplicity, this little gem embodies the spirit of Holidays. Designed by R.O. Blechman and animated by Willis Pyle. Hand drawn, if you can imagine a time when such gracious things happened. Music arranged by Arnie Black. Shown well into the seventies. Lovely.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

little saint nick

The Advent Calendar from Hell revisits Santa today- a warm, fluffy, chrome wheeled, lake piped, Southern California version of Santa, as penned by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

For contrast, and to address my increasing homesickness for Michigan, I've chosen a version by Grand Rapids indie Band Bless You Boys. The video is certainly low budget, but the snow is authentic and besides, they're cute and fun and the energy of the song carries through. On this December 20th, it's the Little Saint Nick:

Friday, December 19, 2008

don't be late

Okay, this one is amazing. Recall that a producer named Ross Bagdasarian broke into the pop music fray in 1958 under the pseudonym David Seville with a novelty act called the Chipmunks. The trio, whose voices were actually his own, were recorded at half speed and then replayed at double speed, making them seem an octave higher. The resulting song, Christmas Don't be Late, captured the #1 spot on the charts in December 1958. Incidentally, the Chipmunks were named after the top executives of Liberty Records, for whom he was under contract.

They culminated with a live marionette appearance on Ed Sullivan that December and set the stage for an animated series on CBS for the 1961-62 season. Here the world first saw them in their animated form, and it was here that this animated version of the song was first aired.

From Christmas, 1961, Alvin and the Chipmunks:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

love darlene love

Who doesn't love Darlene Love? From backupsinger for Phil Spector to uncredited lead singer of the Crystals, and finally success in her own name, she's a powerhouse who has stood the test of time. It's an annual tradition for her to appear on Letterman and sing her contribution to Phil Spector's 1965 Christmas Album.

Please come home for Christmas, 12/22/2006:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

suburban terror

Our advent calender takes a chilling turn with a visit to suburbia. What happens when a computer conrolled lighting display meets Elvis Presley?

The result is a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas.

Tell your psychiatrist.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

mayor of flint

One of the happiest recollections of my hometown of Flint, Michigan was holiday shopping with my father. In those days, and we are talking pre-energy crisis late sixties and early seventies, my little hometown was a prosperous place where the factories hummed along producing luxurious Buick Electras and shiny Chevy pickups, and a thriving downtown with prosperous merchants supplied the locals with their shopping needs.

The holiday season kicked off with the Glitterball. It was the glam party of the season, hosted by the University Club atop the Penthouse of the Genessee Towers. From the giant picture windows, one would look down nineteen stories onto the prosperous community below. Mom would spend a good month making sure her holiday ensemble was "just so", even having her mink stole glazed beforehand (in those innocent, pre-PETA days).

Dad was a partner in a prominent CPA firm downtown and almost all of the local merchants were clients of his, so going shopping was downtown like visiting one endless holiday party with old friends. I nicknamed him the "Mayor of Flint", long before that would infer the felony convictions and sordid background that recent mayors have had.

We had a fabulous time. We'd start at James, Inc, the downtown men's store where Jim Mc Logan would offer me hot cider. Dad would have a glass of champagne at Betty Richards while choosing a smart suit dress or sweater ensemble for Mother. From there we'd work Saginaw Street- drop in on the Goldsteins at Roberts David Alan for cookies, see the Hoyts at Harry's camera and even check out Greenblatt's Furs. Lunch at the Masonic Temple was part of the ritual. We were treated like royalty every where we went. Every store had lights and holiday treats and friendly people to meet.

Of course it all started to change with the opening of Genessee Valley, the first major suburban shopping mall in 1970. Downtown retailers tried to hold on, many opened suburban satellite locations that in time replaced the originals, and by the eighties it was a pale imitation of itself.

But in the innocent days of my childhood, nothing could hold a candle to Christmas Shopping downtown with my own "Mayor of Flint".

Thanks, Dad.

a couple of misfits

I just can't seem to leave this Rudolph thing alone- the need for conformity at all costs, the ostracising of those to fail to conform to the standard, even to the point of banishing playthings who fail to meet the accepted standards of provenance to a snowy Gulag- the dreaded Island of Misfit Toys.

Is this show really about the manifestation of the Mc Carthyism tactics of the 50's giving way to the push for civil rights in the 60's?

Or am I just watching a cute little song about the first gay couple at the North Pole?

Talk amongst yourselves...

Monday, December 15, 2008

christmas kisses

Enough Satanic Santa for a while. Lets set the wayback machine for Christmas 1961. I have a special treat in store for you. It's the Ray Anthony Orchestra, with sugary sweet vocals by The Bookends. Very atomic lyrics and even some cool mid century imagery.

Christmas Kisses, anyone?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

killer santa

Santa's image has really taken a beating here on the World O' Jeff in light of the investigative reporting and hidden camera footage of the last few days. A few days ago we learned that he is a drag racing hot rodder. Then we demonstrated to you that he's a dick. And via archival footage from 1983, let me remind you that he's a cold blooded killer.

If not the worst Christmas ditty of all time, certainly one of the meanest. Of course, I'm speaking of veterinarian Elmo Shropshire who, along with his wife Patsy, added "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" to our holiday repertoire in 1973.

He took $40,000 of his own money and created an album (and a video filmed in his own living room) in his own attempt at holiday road kill immortality. It certainly brought something fresh and new to the music of the season.

With no further adieu, here it is:

Friday, December 12, 2008

winter wonderland

A Holiday treat from the Eighties- courtesy of the timeless Pee Wee's Christmas Special. These three girls are a special kind of awesome- their blend of miniskirts, go-go boots, and gigantic smiles say ot all. And to quote Gypsy, "to have no talent is not enough. What you need is a gimmick- something to make your strip special".

Well, I don't know that they ever did burlesque, but they certainly had their gimmick. Take a listen to the heavenly intonations of the Del Rubio Triplets:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

santa is a dick

I loved the Christmas specials of the sixties. Mom and my brother and I would make sure that we watched each one. In those pre-video-on-demand days, these programs were like old friends who visited once a year. To miss one would be agony- we would have to wait an entire year to see it again. We were captivated by the Grinch, Charlie Brown, Frosty, and even little Cindy Lou Who. This was, of course, before she grew up and married John Mc Cain.

My stylistic favorite was the incomparable Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, a symphony in stop motion animation first broadcast in 1964. It was truly the most glamorous of the specials, very different in tone from the cool jazz sophistication of Charlie Brown. And Charlie was sponsored by Dolly Madison cakes and zingers- we never had those in our house. But GE brings good things to life, and we had electricity. I watched the Debut on our RCA New Vista Color set, and eagerly awaited each anniversary broadcast.

Rudolph had come a long way from his creation as a mere window display by Montgomery Ward's in Chicago for the 1938 season. Immortalized in song by Gene Autry, he became one of the most beloved advertising icons of all time. No owner then that he was rewarded with his own show, I mean, even Judy Garland was doing it.

This special had a dose of sixties reality- Santa was cantankerous and mean, elves fought among themselves, Rudolph was outcast because he was different, Hermey ran away to find himself and even toys were quarantined if society deemed them unfit. But somehow the "misfits" saved the day. Call it early diversity training. I'm sure countless children were driven to therapy because of this show, but I (and many of my gay brothers and sisters) embraced it. Finally different was okay.

Except for Santa. Not the cool GTO driving Santa from yesterday. Santa was not a likable character. Barking at the Missus, insulting the elves, humiliating newborn Rudolph. Santa was a dick. And I'm not the only one to see it. The folks at Camp Jinx prepared this objective analysis. They have him on tape. Watch for yourself:

Santa is a dick.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

santa's gto

Okay, we're continuing along with my little Advent Calendar from Hell. Most of you know I'm crazy about the Ramones, and that enthusiasm extendes to some of their tribute bands as well. Today's stop on the tour of the truly unusual features the world's only all-female Ramones tribute band, the Ramonas, and their festive little holiday number called "Santa's Got a GTO". This video features original imagery including renderings by legendary advertising artist Art Fitzpatrick.

So put some Octane in your holiday and take a look:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

thoughtful gift

While I'm on my Dick Van Dyke kick, here's a fabulous Christmas Ad from the show reminding you that the holiday gift that keeps on giving is.....cigarettes.

Wow, Mom, you shouldn't have!

These are called "roll-ins", where the ad appears to be part of the show. They were invented by none other than Desi Arnaz and are great fun now. There's even a Flintstones animated ad for Winston cigarettes.

Happy Holidays, everyone, and light up!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Nice is nice

I simply love the style of the sixties. The narrow ties, the bouffant hairstyles, the elegant cocktail dresses, the entire world dressed as if about to step out of a 1964 Lincoln Continental.

Even the lowly sitcom had panache, to wit the Dick Van Dyke show with the lovely and talented Mary Tyler Moore. Both trained dancers, in case suburban living should suddenly cause one to burst into song. Which it often did.

And in their third season, the revered Christmas Special, called "Alan Brady Presents". All in all one of the best Christmas episodes of any sitcom (mental note: remember when sitcoms had Christmas episodes)?

The interplay between Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam is charming, but I'm simply all about the hot Santa-On-Santa action at 1:45. An original song by Persky and Denoff, and Dick and Mary do an engaging dance number. Be sure to listen to Mary's cutesy catty comments at the end of each line, and watch their faces- they are having a great time.

What ever else you do, stop at 6:00 before the awful nails on a blackboard rendition of "Little Drummer Boy" by Larry Matthews. The most untalented child actor of all time, this rendition proves that not all children are cute. A reminder of how welcome Thenol was in the sixties. Enjoy:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

if hermey were gay

Although Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was my favorite Christmas special, it nonetheless gave me nightmares. The passive aggressive Santa, seeing poor Rudolph forced into the closet, and Hermey. Where did he get that hairdo?

Well, kids, this is just about the funniest thing I have ever seen. Imagine what would happen if Hermey the Elf and Avenue Q crashed head on and there were no survivors..The bedroom scene alone is simply brilliant. Check it out...

Prop 8: The Musical

I know I'm the last one in the world to post it, but here it is..

Prop 8: The Musical:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

The latest news is that some wingnut organization calling itself the Christian Anti Defamation Commission wants an apology. Apparently the piece is so right-on in nailing their hypocritical asses regarding selective interpretation of the Bible that they are offended.

So hurry up and apologize, y'all. Right.

Friday, December 5, 2008

deer friends

Here from Father Tony, who got it from Tornwordo. So it's the pass-around-Sally of Holiday greetings.

And yes, this is the real me. And I'm mostly okay with it, although to go through life with a secret alias from a Volkswagen of the seventies is a bit offputting.

You Are Dasher

You're an independent minded reindeer who never plays by the rules.

Why You're Naughty: That little coup you tried to stage against Santa last year

Why You're Nice: You secretly give naughty children presents.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

best friends girl

When was the last time a song made you feel as good as this?

I do admit to a certain summer evening in 1984 when I danced around my red sports car in the garage while this played on the radio.

I'd go back there in a heartbeat...wouldn't you?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

gentle angry people

A follow up to yesterday, here's Holly Near and the San Francisco Gay Mens Chorus at the 2008 Moscone and Milk memorial, singing the song she wrote in response to the political assassination of Harvey Milk. Dan White pulled the trigger but Anita Bryant and John Briggs have their fingerprints on the gun.

Never more appropriate than it is today as we recoil from the lies and the bigotry and the persecution which certain so called "evangelicals" are slinging our way for the crime of merely existing.

Well, I have news for you all (and I know you visit here). We exist, and we do not apologize for that. Our right to be here is not one iota less than yours. And we will not be demonized. We have conducted peaceful protests in every major city in the US, and that's just the beginning.

We're not the aggressor here, we've been demonized and tortured for thirty years. You are not the ones whose rights are being diminished. You are not the ones being murdered on the streets. You are not affected in the least. We are. We are not attacking you, we are responding to your attacks on us.

I was made by the same benevolent creator that you were. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Him (or Her).

We are a gentle angry people, and we are singing for our lives.

Monday, December 1, 2008

got milk

Today I had a much needed day off at the end of a tumultuous month in which we saw the beginning of a much needed new day for the Presidency and our international reputation, a severe setback at the hands of the forces of bigotry and oppression, and a wave of optimism and power as our forces take to the streets and demand our civil rights.

On this World AIDS day, I took myself to see Milk, about the life and times of the greatest gay politician we have yet seen. And the parallels to our time are as stunning as the film itself. It is a must see for everyone who has a piece of this struggle.

A deeply moving and indescribably amazing film, we watch this seemingly irrepressible man try again and again to find a place at the table for his gay and lesbian people. We see a striking similarity with the utterly evil Proposition 6, which would have compelled school districts to fire gay teachers. In what could only be described as a triumph of common sense, Proposition 6 went down to defeat. And I strongly suspect that if we had a focused leader such as Harvey Milk in our presence today, Proposition 8 would have failed as well. In fact, if this film had opened a month before the election instead of a month after, it might have made the difference.

In his own words, spoken at his memorial by Anne Kronenberg:

I can be killed with ease.
I can be cut right down.
But I cannot fall back into my closet.
I have grown.
I am not myself.
I am too many.
I am all of us.

And here is a tribute by Sean Chapin to Harvey Milk and George Moscone on the thirtieth anniversary of their tragic loss:

Read more about Sean's tribute here.