Monthly Archives: April 2008

John Adams

If you haven’t watched the HBO miniseries on John Adams, you certainly missed out on something interesting to watch during the Lost hiatus. Paul Giamatti played the man who would be the second President, and did so well that he’s likely a shoo-in at the Emmys. Next best was David Morse as George Washington, who played the reluctant President to perfection. Laura Linney is also excellent as Abigail Adams, and Tom Wilkinson plays Ben Franklin decently, but he just sort of pops in to quote famous lines most of the time, which cheapens the show; as cool a cat as Ben was, this story’s much better after he’s gone.

No fucking Merlot!

At 7 episodes of anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes long, it’s a bit overlong, and spends too much time in France. We meet many of the heroes of the American Revolution, and for once without mythic robes hiding their feet of clay. John Adams, the brewer, was one of the most radical of the bunch and they do show him inciting a mob to tar and feather a merchant. When John Adams is in his 90’s, before the country has had its 50th birthday, he’s already grousing that the real history of the Revolution is lost in shrouds of patriotic bunting. That the signing of the Declaration of Independence was not a gallant meeting, but completed over months as the signers scurried into Philadelphia like rats under cannon fire at times.

Enough with the fucking aphorisms already, Franklin!

Alexander Hamilton’s Federalism, which is the government we have finally inherited, is given a good bit of criticism and they don’t gloss over the fact that the states and statesmen hardly all agreed on the best form of government. The Alien & Sedition Act, the Patriot Act of its day, is mentioned as a stain on Adams’ presidency, and his stormy relationship with Jefferson takes up most of the final episode. They overdo the bit of trivia that both these statesman, the last of the Founders, died on the same day- on the 50th birthday of the country’s Independence, July 4th 1826. They spend a great deal of effort showing the difficulties of colonial life, such as the primitive state of medicine, and how fantastic the inventions of Jefferson and Franklin seemed at the time.

There is also family drama, and we are unfortunately shown just how passionate Mr. Adams felt for his wife Abigail when she meets him in France, when a polite camera panning away from the scene would have been much kinder to the statesman, Paul Giamatti, and our retinas. Thankfully they drew the line at showing founding father fanny.

In the end, I’m glad I watched all 7 or 8 hours of it. The costumes and make-up are pretty amazing, made to stand up to Hi-Def scrutiny. It’s good to see our country’s most hallowed tales be told with realism and honestly, less bullshit. It’s not perfect, but it’s a very good mini-series and I hope it was successful enough that HBO does more historical series of this type. Especially the Pacific Theater “Band of Brothers” we’ve been teased about for years.

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Greasy Spoons – Crif Dog, NYC. Bacon wrapped hot dogs!

I seriously thought about renaming this blog “Movies, Beer and Hot Dogs” (especially since moviesbeerandhotdogs.com is available) but changed my mind. After all, sometimes I write about hamburgers, or music. But this time it’s about hot dogs. If they’re good enough for Christopher Walken, they’re good enough for me:


Walken In L.A.

This week, The Onion picks up another popular syndicated column: Christopher Walken’s “Walken in L.A.” For the last two years, Mr. Walken has provided his readers with consistently insightful commentary into the entertainment industry. His column already appears regularly in Variety and Rolling Stone, as well as in dozens of smaller newspapers and magazines. We’re proud to welcome this celebrated actor and columnist to our pages.

Do you enjoy eating hot dogs? I hope you won’t be put off by my frankness when I tell you that I absolutely love them. In fact, I enjoy no food item more than a freshly-boiled hot dog. Now, I’ve done a lot of movies, and it’s true that I’ve worked with quite a few celebrities who did not share this opinion. I’m sorry to say that these people have always angered me.

There are two types of people in this world: those who eat hot dogs whenever it is possible to do so, and those who opt to do other things with their free time. Who do the latter think they are kidding? What pastime could be more rewarding than the consumption of hot dogs? I haven’t yet found one, and I don’t expect to in my lifetime. Unlike other foods, hot dogs can be eaten at any time, in any place, and it is not necessary to cook them. Now, I ask you: Why not eat hot dogs? They are delicious.

I carry a bag of hot dogs with me wherever I go. I eat them from the bag whenever I get the urge, regardless of the circumstances. When I make a movie, my hot dogs are my co-stars. If, in the middle of a scene, I decide I want to consume a hot dog, I do so. I waste the director’s time and thousands of dollars in film stock, but in the end, it is all worth it, because I enjoy eating hot dogs more than I enjoy acting. This bothers some people. I was supposed to portray Batman, but when Tim Burton learned of my hot dog cravings, he asked Michael Keaton to wear the cape. To this day, I am peeved about this.

When we filmed The Dead Zone, I ate over 800 hot dogs a day. It was necessary. My character needed to come across as intense as possible, and I found the inspiration for that intensity in my intense love for hot dogs. The director, David Cronenberg, said that he would never work with me again. I kept eating hot dogs when the cameras were rolling, and that seemed to bother him. I say fuck him. He doesn’t even like hot dogs.

I would like to end by emphasizing once again that I really like to eat hot dogs. If any of you people disagree, I loathe you. I despise you. Not only that, but I also despise all your loved ones. I want to see them torn to pieces by wild dogs. If I ever meet you in person, I’ll smash your brains in with a fucking bat. Then we’ll see who doesn’t like hot dogs.

Next week: My thoughts on Woody Allen, hot dog hater and shitty director.

-Shamelessly reprinted from The Onion

Crif Dogs – wrapped in bacon, and yes slathered in strange toppings.

When you walk down St. Mark’s Place, many eateries cry out for attention. They seem to have taken over most of the used record shops, though some still remain. There are the requisite Indian and Japanese places, there’s a place that sells only Hummus, there’s a replica of the old 50’s Automat called BAMN, all done in pink… and next door is Crif Dog, calling to you with a giant wiener poking out with “Eat Me” written on it in mustard script.

The lewd signage

If you venture down into the basement you’ll be greeted with a disco ball and a big menu, a few classic arcade games including a sit-down Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga, a bar with stools and a few small tables. There’s also a glowing pink door to the left that is a trendy secret nightclub of some sort, so don’t go in there to pee. The wait wasn’t too long, and the drunks were orderly; there’s a note tacked to the menu that says “There’s an Asshole Button for a reason! Be nice to your servers!” I guess some of the New Yorkers are jealous about Chicago’s infamous Wiener’s Circle where the curses fly to and fro. I’ve been there too, and while I can enjoy a Chicago dog with the pickle and other toppings, on the poppy seed bun, the crisp fried dogs at Crif’s are much more to my taste.

Notice the Stoner packs. Know your customer!

I demanded that we go to Crif Dog after Katie mentioned that they make hot dogs wrapped in bacon. Now I’d heard of such a thing, but never experienced it. She also mentioned toppings like sour cream and avocado, or pineapple. Say what you want about California pizza, but I’ve always liked Hawaiian pizza with pineapple and Canadian bacon (though pineapple-pepperoni works better, in my opinion, or pineapple-ham and hot yellow banana peppers). So this was a must-visit. We went to Mara’s Homemade for dinner that night, and sampled Abita’s excellent seasonal brew, Strawberry Harvest Lager, over a bucket of crawfish boil. Then wandered to the Continental, for $10 for any 5 shots, and after a few hours there it was time for drunk food. That’s where Crif Dog comes in handy.

Drunk food requires grease to kick your liver into gear and a spongy carb material to soak up alcohol and keep it in your stomach, to give the liver a fighting chance. A hot dog, ensconced in bacon and fried crisp in oil, enrobed in a gummy bun and slathered in all and sundry toppings, is the top gun in the drunk food arsenal. Some prefer a pizza burger. Up north they have their poutine, or gravy cheese fries as we’d call them here in the States; Disco Fries in Jersey diners. Over the pond it’s a chip butty or a bacon chip butty, a sandwich made of bacon, fries, and butter. Now those concoctions will certainly do the job, but in New York City there is no food more ubiquitous than the hot dog. On Bourbon Street you have your Lucky Dog vendors, but in the city the blue and gold Sabrett’s umbrella is the beacon that will lead you to salvation. But if you’re near St. Mark’s and Avenue A, Crif Dog is the only way to go.

Sadly I think they no longer serve beer. Or at least PBR. Die, hipster!

Despite the fancy names on the menu, they make a fine down-home dog with few pretentions. I was impressed by the Spicy Redneck, a bacon dog with chili sauce, jalapenos, and cole slaw. It wasn’t very spicy, but it tasted very good. I much preferred the Tsunami, which is a bacon dog with teriyaki sauce, pineapple, and a few green onions. Both of these overwhelmed the hotdog and bacon flavors, so in later visits I might try a plain ol’ bacon dog, and I’m told their burgers are worth a try too. Firecracker had a Philly Tube Steak- cheese and onions, and the Chihuahua, with sour cream and avocado. They also make a Good Morning, with bacon, cheese and egg, but I didn’t want to push my luck.

They’re a great find and make some fine hot dogs, but the Redneck was very light on the chili and spices. For $4.50 you can spare a little more chili, right? Well, at least the “Knuckle Sandwiches are still free.” It’s not a bargain, but it’s a unique hot dog experience and $20 for a filling meal for two isn’t that bad in NYC; you might dirty water dogs at Gray’s Papaya a lot cheaper, but you’ll be going back for more if you only get their 2-dogs and a Papaya drink special.

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Greasy Spoons – Crif Dog, NYC. Bacon wrapped hot dogs!

I seriously thought about renaming this blog “Movies, Beer and Hot Dogs” (especially since moviesbeerandhotdogs.com is available) but changed my mind. After all, sometimes I write about hamburgers, or music. But this time it’s about hot dogs. If they’re good enough for Christopher Walken, they’re good enough for me:


Walken In L.A.

This week, The Onion picks up another popular syndicated column: Christopher Walken’s “Walken in L.A.” For the last two years, Mr. Walken has provided his readers with consistently insightful commentary into the entertainment industry. His column already appears regularly in Variety and Rolling Stone, as well as in dozens of smaller newspapers and magazines. We’re proud to welcome this celebrated actor and columnist to our pages.

Do you enjoy eating hot dogs? I hope you won’t be put off by my frankness when I tell you that I absolutely love them. In fact, I enjoy no food item more than a freshly-boiled hot dog. Now, I’ve done a lot of movies, and it’s true that I’ve worked with quite a few celebrities who did not share this opinion. I’m sorry to say that these people have always angered me.

There are two types of people in this world: those who eat hot dogs whenever it is possible to do so, and those who opt to do other things with their free time. Who do the latter think they are kidding? What pastime could be more rewarding than the consumption of hot dogs? I haven’t yet found one, and I don’t expect to in my lifetime. Unlike other foods, hot dogs can be eaten at any time, in any place, and it is not necessary to cook them. Now, I ask you: Why not eat hot dogs? They are delicious.

I carry a bag of hot dogs with me wherever I go. I eat them from the bag whenever I get the urge, regardless of the circumstances. When I make a movie, my hot dogs are my co-stars. If, in the middle of a scene, I decide I want to consume a hot dog, I do so. I waste the director’s time and thousands of dollars in film stock, but in the end, it is all worth it, because I enjoy eating hot dogs more than I enjoy acting. This bothers some people. I was supposed to portray Batman, but when Tim Burton learned of my hot dog cravings, he asked Michael Keaton to wear the cape. To this day, I am peeved about this.

When we filmed The Dead Zone, I ate over 800 hot dogs a day. It was necessary. My character needed to come across as intense as possible, and I found the inspiration for that intensity in my intense love for hot dogs. The director, David Cronenberg, said that he would never work with me again. I kept eating hot dogs when the cameras were rolling, and that seemed to bother him. I say fuck him. He doesn’t even like hot dogs.

I would like to end by emphasizing once again that I really like to eat hot dogs. If any of you people disagree, I loathe you. I despise you. Not only that, but I also despise all your loved ones. I want to see them torn to pieces by wild dogs. If I ever meet you in person, I’ll smash your brains in with a fucking bat. Then we’ll see who doesn’t like hot dogs.

Next week: My thoughts on Woody Allen, hot dog hater and shitty director.

-Shamelessly reprinted from The Onion

Crif Dogs – wrapped in bacon, and yes slathered in strange toppings.

When you walk down St. Mark’s Place, many eateries cry out for attention. They seem to have taken over most of the used record shops, though some still remain. There are the requisite Indian and Japanese places, there’s a place that sells only Hummus, there’s a replica of the old 50’s Automat called BAMN, all done in pink… and next door is Crif Dog, calling to you with a giant wiener poking out with “Eat Me” written on it in mustard script.

The lewd signage

If you venture down into the basement you’ll be greeted with a disco ball and a big menu, a few classic arcade games including a sit-down Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga, a bar with stools and a few small tables. There’s also a glowing pink door to the left that is a trendy secret nightclub of some sort, so don’t go in there to pee. The wait wasn’t too long, and the drunks were orderly; there’s a note tacked to the menu that says “There’s an Asshole Button for a reason! Be nice to your servers!” I guess some of the New Yorkers are jealous about Chicago’s infamous Wiener’s Circle where the curses fly to and fro. I’ve been there too, and while I can enjoy a Chicago dog with the pickle and other toppings, on the poppy seed bun, the crisp fried dogs at Crif’s are much more to my taste.

Notice the Stoner packs. Know your customer!

I demanded that we go to Crif Dog after Katie mentioned that they make hot dogs wrapped in bacon. Now I’d heard of such a thing, but never experienced it. She also mentioned toppings like sour cream and avocado, or pineapple. Say what you want about California pizza, but I’ve always liked Hawaiian pizza with pineapple and Canadian bacon (though pineapple-pepperoni works better, in my opinion, or pineapple-ham and hot yellow banana peppers). So this was a must-visit. We went to Mara’s Homemade for dinner that night, and sampled Abita’s excellent seasonal brew, Strawberry Harvest Lager, over a bucket of crawfish boil. Then wandered to the Continental, for $10 for any 5 shots, and after a few hours there it was time for drunk food. That’s where Crif Dog comes in handy.

Drunk food requires grease to kick your liver into gear and a spongy carb material to soak up alcohol and keep it in your stomach, to give the liver a fighting chance. A hot dog, ensconced in bacon and fried crisp in oil, enrobed in a gummy bun and slathered in all and sundry toppings, is the top gun in the drunk food arsenal. Some prefer a pizza burger. Up north they have their poutine, or gravy cheese fries as we’d call them here in the States; Disco Fries in Jersey diners. Over the pond it’s a chip butty or a bacon chip butty, a sandwich made of bacon, fries, and butter. Now those concoctions will certainly do the job, but in New York City there is no food more ubiquitous than the hot dog. On Bourbon Street you have your Lucky Dog vendors, but in the city the blue and gold Sabrett’s umbrella is the beacon that will lead you to salvation. But if you’re near St. Mark’s and Avenue A, Crif Dog is the only way to go.

Sadly I think they no longer serve beer. Or at least PBR. Die, hipster!

Despite the fancy names on the menu, they make a fine down-home dog with few pretentions. I was impressed by the Spicy Redneck, a bacon dog with chili sauce, jalapenos, and cole slaw. It wasn’t very spicy, but it tasted very good. I much preferred the Tsunami, which is a bacon dog with teriyaki sauce, pineapple, and a few green onions. Both of these overwhelmed the hotdog and bacon flavors, so in later visits I might try a plain ol’ bacon dog, and I’m told their burgers are worth a try too. Firecracker had a Philly Tube Steak- cheese and onions, and the Chihuahua, with sour cream and avocado. They also make a Good Morning, with bacon, cheese and egg, but I didn’t want to push my luck.

They’re a great find and make some fine hot dogs, but the Redneck was very light on the chili and spices. For $4.50 you can spare a little more chili, right? Well, at least the “Knuckle Sandwiches are still free.” It’s not a bargain, but it’s a unique hot dog experience and $20 for a filling meal for two isn’t that bad in NYC; you might dirty water dogs at Gray’s Papaya a lot cheaper, but you’ll be going back for more if you only get their 2-dogs and a Papaya drink special.

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Laughingstock State: Mayor’s Missing Cat Reverse 911 call

People make fun of New Jersey for a lot of reasons- the tolls, the fact that we call ourselves the Garden State when most visitors see the Blade Runner-esque refineries around Newark Airport, and the game of “guess that smell” when driving along the Turnpike. Maybe it’s our Gay American ex-Governor who disgraced us by trying to put a foreign national boy toy in the position of Homeland Security, if he’d assume another position first; or our current Governor, the billionaire buffoon who won’t wear a seat belt, and would rather shut down state parks than cut entitlements.

But there are many good reasons to mock this corrupt, bizarre Babylon, and you won’t find them in Weird NJ magazine.

For example, across the river from where I grew up is the town of North Arlington. The Mayor, one Peter Massa, decided to use the town’s Reverse 911 Alert system for that greatest of all emergencies, a missing cat.

NORTH ARLINGTON, N.J. — While Pennsylvanians are getting automated calls urging them to support Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, citizens of North Arlington, N.J., are receiving similar “robocalls” urging voters to help find a lost cat named “Max.”

It’s not just any kitty. It’s the 20-pound Maine coon belonging to Mayor Peter Massa and his wife, Val.

The calls were set up by Borough Administrator Terence Wall.

The mayor tells The Record of Bergen County he paid about $10 for AUDIOListen to send the message to each of the 8,500 registered voters in the community Wednesday.

The Massas are also offering a $500 reward for anyone who finds the 14-year-old cat.

Imagine getting that call on the phone. “Citizens, this is your mayor speaking. Can you please help find my kitty?” The best part is that they found the cat in his house, less than a day later.

(04-17) 17:39 PDT NORTH ARLINGTON, N.J. (AP) –

Mayor Peter Massa put out a citywide cat call when his Maine Coon disappeared. Massa had an automatic call sent to 8,500 voters on Wednesday asking for help finding Max.

Turns out he didn’t have to look that far. Massa’s wife, Val, says 14-year-old Max was found inside a wall of their house Thursday morning. He had been missing since Tuesday.

Val Massa says she doesn’t know how the 20-pound cat got in the 5-inch hole under the stairs. Max was dehydrated and hungry, but otherwise fine.

The Massas had also offered a $500 reward.

I wonder if he paid another $10 to tell everyone they found the cat in their house. “Hello citizens of North Arlington. We have, um, found our snoogums. He was in the house. Thank you for your support. Remember, if you lose your cat… well, tough shit.”

I grew up across the river from North Arlington. It’s a little podunk town between Lyndhurst and Kearney, probably most famous for having sinkholes swallow entire homes, because it’s built on top of an abandoned copper mine from the 1700’s. It’s a nice enough place, and is home to the most parklike section of the Meadowlands, a marsh bird sanctuary known as DeKorte Park.

Hopefully the mayor will keep a better eye on his cat. It’s not like Maine Coons are tiny and quiet. I rescued one once. Sortof. I was going to my friend Peter “Bloodsport” Dell’Orto’s house for a quiet night of the Dungeons and the Dragons back in high school, when a big-ass cat pads up to me in their driveway. He was very friendly and tried to follow me in. A week later he had the run of the house with their other cats and dog, Rebel the Great Dane-German Shepherd mix, an enormous lovable doofus a la Marmaduke. They named him Fester, as in Uncle Fester, not because he had festering sores. He did have a few thousand fleas, however. He lived a long happy life as an enormous, friendly yet scary-looking cat or pygmy tiger. He was kind of cat whose paws hurt when he sat on your lap. But he wasn’t roly-poly. I can imagine him crawling into a wall, but he’d probably have gnawed his way out and pooped a huge white sheet-rock turd in the litterbox.

That being said, I’m glad Reverse-911 is being used to save lives and protect New Jerseyans, at least the kind who poop in a box.

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Laughingstock State: Mayor’s Missing Cat Reverse 911 call

People make fun of New Jersey for a lot of reasons- the tolls, the fact that we call ourselves the Garden State when most visitors see the Blade Runner-esque refineries around Newark Airport, and the game of “guess that smell” when driving along the Turnpike. Maybe it’s our Gay American ex-Governor who disgraced us by trying to put a foreign national boy toy in the position of Homeland Security, if he’d assume another position first; or our current Governor, the billionaire buffoon who won’t wear a seat belt, and would rather shut down state parks than cut entitlements.

But there are many good reasons to mock this corrupt, bizarre Babylon, and you won’t find them in Weird NJ magazine.

For example, across the river from where I grew up is the town of North Arlington. The Mayor, one Peter Massa, decided to use the town’s Reverse 911 Alert system for that greatest of all emergencies, a missing cat.

NORTH ARLINGTON, N.J. — While Pennsylvanians are getting automated calls urging them to support Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, citizens of North Arlington, N.J., are receiving similar “robocalls” urging voters to help find a lost cat named “Max.”

It’s not just any kitty. It’s the 20-pound Maine coon belonging to Mayor Peter Massa and his wife, Val.

The calls were set up by Borough Administrator Terence Wall.

The mayor tells The Record of Bergen County he paid about $10 for AUDIOListen to send the message to each of the 8,500 registered voters in the community Wednesday.

The Massas are also offering a $500 reward for anyone who finds the 14-year-old cat.

Imagine getting that call on the phone. “Citizens, this is your mayor speaking. Can you please help find my kitty?” The best part is that they found the cat in his house, less than a day later.

(04-17) 17:39 PDT NORTH ARLINGTON, N.J. (AP) –

Mayor Peter Massa put out a citywide cat call when his Maine Coon disappeared. Massa had an automatic call sent to 8,500 voters on Wednesday asking for help finding Max.

Turns out he didn’t have to look that far. Massa’s wife, Val, says 14-year-old Max was found inside a wall of their house Thursday morning. He had been missing since Tuesday.

Val Massa says she doesn’t know how the 20-pound cat got in the 5-inch hole under the stairs. Max was dehydrated and hungry, but otherwise fine.

The Massas had also offered a $500 reward.

I wonder if he paid another $10 to tell everyone they found the cat in their house. “Hello citizens of North Arlington. We have, um, found our snoogums. He was in the house. Thank you for your support. Remember, if you lose your cat… well, tough shit.”

I grew up across the river from North Arlington. It’s a little podunk town between Lyndhurst and Kearney, probably most famous for having sinkholes swallow entire homes, because it’s built on top of an abandoned copper mine from the 1700’s. It’s a nice enough place, and is home to the most parklike section of the Meadowlands, a marsh bird sanctuary known as DeKorte Park.

Hopefully the mayor will keep a better eye on his cat. It’s not like Maine Coons are tiny and quiet. I rescued one once. Sortof. I was going to my friend Peter “Bloodsport” Dell’Orto’s house for a quiet night of the Dungeons and the Dragons back in high school, when a big-ass cat pads up to me in their driveway. He was very friendly and tried to follow me in. A week later he had the run of the house with their other cats and dog, Rebel the Great Dane-German Shepherd mix, an enormous lovable doofus a la Marmaduke. They named him Fester, as in Uncle Fester, not because he had festering sores. He did have a few thousand fleas, however. He lived a long happy life as an enormous, friendly yet scary-looking cat or pygmy tiger. He was kind of cat whose paws hurt when he sat on your lap. But he wasn’t roly-poly. I can imagine him crawling into a wall, but he’d probably have gnawed his way out and pooped a huge white sheet-rock turd in the litterbox.

That being said, I’m glad Reverse-911 is being used to save lives and protect New Jerseyans, at least the kind who poop in a box.

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Warren Zevon – the Werewolf of Rock

Warren Zevon has always been one of my favorite singer-songwriters. He calls himself a folk singer, but he rocks out here and there. Most famous for “Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” he’s been writing songs for a long time. In fact he had one in Midnight Cowboy, sung by someone else. He was thought of as a 70’s wild man and a has-been rockstar, when he was really more of a folk singer who had a few big hits. He’s been called “folk noir,” but he really follows the murder ballad tradition that goes beyond American folk roots. Sort of a Jelly Roll Morton or a Leadbelly in L.A.

My friend Peter the English teacher/bare-knuckled brawler in Japan introduced me to Warren Zevon back in ’87 or so. Trading vinyl, and performing the horror of horrors, home taping, when we couldn’t find the records at Mickey Music or Giovine’s. How could we resist songs like “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner?”
I have all of his albums, even Wanted Dead or Alive, which sounds more like something from the Easy Rider soundtrack than his more famous stuff. The Rhino records retrospective I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is a good start, but you might as well just pick up Excitable Boy and his self-titled 70’s debut if you want a taste of his music. For a live set, like “Learning to Flinch,” which is acoustic but still full of raucous energy. His first live album, Stand in the Fire was recently re-issued, and is a great set, but I liked his later years better. I don’t think he’s had a bad album, really. Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School is an 80’s classic, with “Play it All Night Long,” and Sentimental Hygiene is another favorite, with “Boom Boom Mancini,” and “The Factory.” Warren even did a concept album called Transverse City about a dystopian future, a lot of which you can see coming true. It’s an underrated album and I’ll give it a full review someday when I start my concept album column, as soon as I find a stupid enough name for it.
I saw Warren play at First Avenue in Minneapolis in the late 90’s. It’s one of the most memorable concerts I’ve been too. It’s a small, comfy venue and he played acoustic for 2 hours, playing all our favorite tunes, and as always, personalizing “Werewolves” for our city. At that time “The Indifference of Heaven” and “Splendid Isolation” were two of my favorites, and he played both.
That was before he got mesothelioma. Yep, that asbestos disease you hear about mostly on local access cable from lawyers. He was given 3 months to live, but held on for over a year and managed to release more albums with some great songs on them. Most notably “Keep Me in your Heart for a While” off of The Wind. It’s a very touching song, and helped me get by after the death of my grandmother. Warren had a unique voice, and while he’s best known for a howl, he has a heartfelt touch with a tender or sad ballad. “Desperadoes Under the Eaves” and “The French Inhaler” are certainly evidence of that.
He created a dark and dirty world, peppered with heartfelt moments and hilarity, in his songwriting. I grew up there in my adolescence, and in the 80’s it was easy to dream of living in a world full of mercenaries, envoys, werewolves and lounge lizards. For a long time my internet handle was “Mr. Bad Example” after his album of the same name; I still think it’s one of his best. That’s where “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” comes from, a song that sort of had a movie made about it. It certainly could have been written by Warren, with Critical Bill the gun nut, Andy Garcia knowing he’s dead, and Christopher Walken as a paraplegic mob boss, in one of his more memorable roles. He covered for Paul Schaffer on the Letterman show; he was friends with Miami’s pen-wielding crusader, Carl Hiaasen, and they co-wrote some songs together.

The latest release is Preludes, rare and unreleased recordings. It’s really for big fans and completists. The best part is the second disc, which has a long interview interspersed with some solo acoustic tracks. It was nice to listen to a long and casual interview with Warren. His stage persona was a bit unhinged, so it’s good to see the man behind it talk about life and music.

The first disc of unreleased tracks is little spotty, because so much has already been released. I really enjoy “Steady Rain,” for one. It’s a sad and touching ballad. There’s an alternate take of “Werewolves of London” which echoes and sound effects that’s fun and creepy, but the mix is so different that it’s strange listening to it, when you know the original by heart. “Tule’s Blues” is another nice ballad that shows off his piano work.

The 2 CD set comes with a booklet with short writings by his son Jordan Zevon, Jackson Browne, and others who worked with Warren. The one thing it lacks is a lyric sheet for the new songs, or much info on where the alternate takes come from. His son Jordan found many of the songs on reels in storage with no notes, but maybe there’s more over on the Warren Zevon website. Some of them have lyrical changes, like an early cut of “Carmelita,” one of my favorites, about a smack-addicted songwriter yearning for his girl. But here, instead of pawning his Smith-Corona, he’s pawning a Smith & Wesson. I always felt a sort of Hemingway/Burroughs vibe when it was about pawning a typewriter, about a man so lost in his addictions that he pawns his writing instrument.

There’s a truncated version of “Studebaker” that Jordan sang on the tribute CD that came out a year or so back. It’s nice that he finished the song for his father. He does a great job with it, it’s the highlight of the tribute album if you ask me. It’s called Enjoy Every Sandwich, which is what Warren said when someone asked what he was going to do, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now there’s a sentiment I can agree with.

Crystal Zevon has also written a book about him, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon. I haven’t read it yet, but as you can imagine, I’ll review it here when I have.

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Warren Zevon – the Werewolf of Rock

Warren Zevon has always been one of my favorite singer-songwriters. He calls himself a folk singer, but he rocks out here and there. Most famous for “Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” he’s been writing songs for a long time. In fact he had one in Midnight Cowboy, sung by someone else. He was thought of as a 70’s wild man and a has-been rockstar, when he was really more of a folk singer who had a few big hits. He’s been called “folk noir,” but he really follows the murder ballad tradition that goes beyond American folk roots. Sort of a Jelly Roll Morton or a Leadbelly in L.A.

My friend Peter the English teacher/bare-knuckled brawler in Japan introduced me to Warren Zevon back in ’87 or so. Trading vinyl, and performing the horror of horrors, home taping, when we couldn’t find the records at Mickey Music or Giovine’s. How could we resist songs like “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner?”
I have all of his albums, even Wanted Dead or Alive, which sounds more like something from the Easy Rider soundtrack than his more famous stuff. The Rhino records retrospective I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is a good start, but you might as well just pick up Excitable Boy and his self-titled 70’s debut if you want a taste of his music. For a live set, like “Learning to Flinch,” which is acoustic but still full of raucous energy. His first live album, Stand in the Fire was recently re-issued, and is a great set, but I liked his later years better. I don’t think he’s had a bad album, really. Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School is an 80’s classic, with “Play it All Night Long,” and Sentimental Hygiene is another favorite, with “Boom Boom Mancini,” and “The Factory.” Warren even did a concept album called Transverse City about a dystopian future, a lot of which you can see coming true. It’s an underrated album and I’ll give it a full review someday when I start my concept album column, as soon as I find a stupid enough name for it.
I saw Warren play at First Avenue in Minneapolis in the late 90’s. It’s one of the most memorable concerts I’ve been too. It’s a small, comfy venue and he played acoustic for 2 hours, playing all our favorite tunes, and as always, personalizing “Werewolves” for our city. At that time “The Indifference of Heaven” and “Splendid Isolation” were two of my favorites, and he played both.
That was before he got mesothelioma. Yep, that asbestos disease you hear about mostly on local access cable from lawyers. He was given 3 months to live, but held on for over a year and managed to release more albums with some great songs on them. Most notably “Keep Me in your Heart for a While” off of The Wind. It’s a very touching song, and helped me get by after the death of my grandmother. Warren had a unique voice, and while he’s best known for a howl, he has a heartfelt touch with a tender or sad ballad. “Desperadoes Under the Eaves” and “The French Inhaler” are certainly evidence of that.
He created a dark and dirty world, peppered with heartfelt moments and hilarity, in his songwriting. I grew up there in my adolescence, and in the 80’s it was easy to dream of living in a world full of mercenaries, envoys, werewolves and lounge lizards. For a long time my internet handle was “Mr. Bad Example” after his album of the same name; I still think it’s one of his best. That’s where “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” comes from, a song that sort of had a movie made about it. It certainly could have been written by Warren, with Critical Bill the gun nut, Andy Garcia knowing he’s dead, and Christopher Walken as a paraplegic mob boss, in one of his more memorable roles. He covered for Paul Schaffer on the Letterman show; he was friends with Miami’s pen-wielding crusader, Carl Hiaasen, and they co-wrote some songs together.

The latest release is Preludes, rare and unreleased recordings. It’s really for big fans and completists. The best part is the second disc, which has a long interview interspersed with some solo acoustic tracks. It was nice to listen to a long and casual interview with Warren. His stage persona was a bit unhinged, so it’s good to see the man behind it talk about life and music.

The first disc of unreleased tracks is little spotty, because so much has already been released. I really enjoy “Steady Rain,” for one. It’s a sad and touching ballad. There’s an alternate take of “Werewolves of London” which echoes and sound effects that’s fun and creepy, but the mix is so different that it’s strange listening to it, when you know the original by heart. “Tule’s Blues” is another nice ballad that shows off his piano work.

The 2 CD set comes with a booklet with short writings by his son Jordan Zevon, Jackson Browne, and others who worked with Warren. The one thing it lacks is a lyric sheet for the new songs, or much info on where the alternate takes come from. His son Jordan found many of the songs on reels in storage with no notes, but maybe there’s more over on the Warren Zevon website. Some of them have lyrical changes, like an early cut of “Carmelita,” one of my favorites, about a smack-addicted songwriter yearning for his girl. But here, instead of pawning his Smith-Corona, he’s pawning a Smith & Wesson. I always felt a sort of Hemingway/Burroughs vibe when it was about pawning a typewriter, about a man so lost in his addictions that he pawns his writing instrument.

There’s a truncated version of “Studebaker” that Jordan sang on the tribute CD that came out a year or so back. It’s nice that he finished the song for his father. He does a great job with it, it’s the highlight of the tribute album if you ask me. It’s called Enjoy Every Sandwich, which is what Warren said when someone asked what he was going to do, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now there’s a sentiment I can agree with.

Crystal Zevon has also written a book about him, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon. I haven’t read it yet, but as you can imagine, I’ll review it here when I have.

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