Sunday, September 25, 2016

SIXTY, GODDAMMIT CD Release Party/Concert, Saturday Oct. 8



KNON-FM 89.3 presents a CD Release party for Josh Alan’s new album, Sixty Goddammit—rated number one on KNON’s Texas Blues Radio Living Blues Report.

"A CD so good, we play it even though we can’t say the name of it on the radio."

Now see Josh Alan perform the new album live. The Sixty, Goddammit CD Release Party will be Saturday, Oct 8th at the Sons of Hermann Hall.

Opening the show will be Miss Marcy & Her Texas Sugar Daddys. (Miss Marcy is recognized by the Dallas Observer as a Best of Dallas Blues artist.)

Free dinner while it lasts from Chef Ivan Pugh’s new restaurant, Bucky Moonshine’s.

Doors open at 7 pm, show starts at 8 pm. 

Tickets available now at KNON.org and this Friday at Bill's Records, Forever Young Records, and Top Ten Records.


This is a KNON benefit event.


Josh Alan's new album is Sixty, Goddammit.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Josh Alan at Poor David's Saturday Sept. 24



Josh Alan joins Kinky Friedman this Saturday, September 24, at Poor David's in Dallas.

Click HERE for tickets and directions.


Josh Alan's new album is SIXTY, GODDAMMIT.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dream of the Dead Developers


Shitty City

I began to feel the slam of gentrification in 1977. At the age of 21, I moved into my first apartment at 74 West 68th Street near Lincoln Center. The rent seemed high—$230 a month. A year or two after moving in, my favorite Irish bar, Chinese laundry and Italian vegetable shop were gone. Each had ominously turned into a branded boutique or trendy bistro. Stores selling Things You Don’t Need. They’d survive a couple of years, replacing establishments that had served the neighborhood for decades. Working-class Puerto Rican families were driven out by rent hikes. Mere yards from my window, the TV network ABC began construction on their new skyscraper that would forever block my building’s sun and view down Columbus Avenue. Construction workers urinated over railings into our courtyard, which became infested with their trash.

At this juncture in construction history, tower-rig crane operators began to command six-figure salaries. Working Joes transformed into gold chain-wearing baboons. Sewer workers, guys like Ed Norton on The Honeymooners, suddenly had the job status of neurosurgeons. Their unions were run by guys right out of The Sopranos. Any tenant with the audacity to complain to a foreman about the noise, the smoke, the piss or even the wolf-whistling that hounded young women who walked by, was greeted by shovel-wielding cement laborers in hardhats. They laughed at complaints. Mayor Koch, responding to the land grabs, claimed “Upper West Siders love it.” I watched the old soul of Columbus and Amsterdam avenues whittling away.

To play devil’s advocate, I will now concede an upside to all this: Manhattan still exists. A billionaire’s empty-apartment money-laundered property haven, perhaps. A corporatocracy of high-rent blight. But with a pristine Central Park, a working infrastructure, the best tap water and the lowest crime statistics. Subways are no longer racial tinderboxes, construction workers seem more polite and they no longer beat up hippies. All of that is a miracle. In the 1970s and ’80s it seemed a sure bet that New York would unravel into a hopeless wasteland of crime, blight and ruin. That may happen again, but as of now, New York didn’t become a Mad Max movie. At least a small degree of civility returned.

All this at the cost of its soul. But millennials don’t know what the old soul of New York was, and they could care less. You can still catch glimpses of it in Chinatown after midnight, in the Heights of Brooklyn or Grand Central or a thousand other disappearing mirages. Today, New York is being destroyed by wealth.

The newest neighborhoods begin at 60 stories high. These nosebleed living quarters will ultimately have their multi-million-dollar views obliterated, as someone else’s mega-million view is built next door. These cheap glass towers will not age well. They will someday become unimaginable slums of the sky. When the city goes bust in the future—and these cycles are inevitable—hundreds, maybe thousands of ugly glass buildings will empty and rot. Their maintenance will become impossible. When the power goes out, servants will carry water bottles up and chamber pots down, at least for the first few weeks. Then all bets are off. The City of New York will pay a heavy price for destroying its history.

In 1985, I wrote the screed below for an obscure paper called the Soho Arts Weekly, which nobody read. An immature rant, it reflected a process that has gone into hyperdrive. New York is so vast that it takes decades to dismantle. We didn’t know Donald Trump would someday be president, and even he wasn’t the worst of the real estate men. I cringe at the Jewish names that appear, but New York was, after all, an Irish-Italian-Black-Puerto Rican-Dutch-German and very Jewish city.


Dream of the Dead Developers (from Dec. 1985)

The New York City real estate industry. At the bottom rung are the soulless swine that scratch out commissions at brokerages. The real estate broker is a useless middleman who exists only to extract a $2000 fee—an obstacle between you and your living quarters. Apartments could just as easily be listed by a city agency or newspaper.

In the upper crust of this reckless market are the developers, speculators and mega-landlords. The “heavy hitters” of commercial real estate. Fellows whose sheer greed, environmental abuses and disregard for humanity represent a megalomaniacal compulsion to own more and more real estate—more than they can responsibly manage. Forget about supply and demand.

They are like fat, spoiled babies in highchairs, reaching out to grab everyone else’s food, knocking over bottles, flinging their diaper shit and mauling the cat. Except these are grown power brokers, grabbing up “air spaces,” knocking down solid old dwellings to erect multi-unit monstrosities. Causing thousands to lose their homes, and driving up inflation.

No one fights back. People have full-time jobs and can’t match the organized lobbying and bribery systems developers use to overcome zoning laws. They grind out cheap, inflation-era high-rises of thin plasterboard and glass, made up of “units.” One obstructs the view of the next. New York’s reigning architecture is a vision of corporate ugliness, leaving a toxic trail of pollution, noise and unenforced construction violations in its wake. Not visionary architects, but calculating snakes run this industry, men who know the desperate value humans attribute to land—just as humans would water, if speculators could turn it into a similar commodity.

Real estate pigs have become celebrities in this new era when businessmen are presented as cultural icons. Men celebrated for the money and holdings they have amassed. Their horrid faces grace the covers of popular magazines like rock stars. New York brandishes the hemorrhoidal Harry Macklowe on its cover, waving atop the skeleton of his new 78-story monstrosity on 57th Street. (Had he only stepped back a few paces.) The cover story, “Mr. Big,” gloats over his dreams of surpassing the $700-per-square-foot value of Trump Tower. Manhattan Inc. drools over the multi-billion dollar land holdings of the Tisch Bros., primped and pancaked on the cover as if a mortician had made them up. It’s only a matter of time before Donald Trump makes the cover of Rolling Stone.

The rogues’ gallery of real estate cannibals annihilating New York includes scum like Harry Helmsley and his porcine “Queen” Leona, Trammell Crow, John Portman, Sol Goldman, William Zeckendorf, Daniel Brodsky, Paul Milstein, Larry Silverstein, George Klein. The tax incentives for them to build and build and over-develop have been fat during the Koch years. The city Buildings Department is kept lax and incompetent. Citizens’ complaints go unanswered, even block associations can’t get inspectors to monitor construction violations. Our mayor, who honeymoons with developers, seems only to gain in popularity, even though this over-development in condos and co-ops is commensurate with a murderous cost-of-living increase. Until the 1980s, a quarter of your income went toward rent, by rule of thumb. Now, Manhattan landlords commonly command half or three-quarters. Yet the land barons only see what they can’t yet get a stranglehold on. Trump tells the Times that this city discourages development. And in City Business, Larry Silverstein, developer of a $400-million third World Trade tower currently in progress, sees his cut of the pie dwindling: “I thought we real estate men were the ones who had kept ahead of inflation, but we’ve been far outdone by the lawyers.”

Every gay greeting card on Columbus Avenue, every $30 baby shirt, every scoop of Tofutti—the inflated price tags on these ephemeral items go toward a super rent, not a storeowner’s profit. Frivolous boutique doo-dads are not even worth half their price. Unfortunately, the pizza parlor and the shoe repairman’s shop must also pay these runaway rents. The sense of getting so little for your money constantly depresses the spirit.

In the wake of these super rents are ravaged neighborhoods. Gone are the old-world tailors, Italian vegetable stands, Chinese laundries and candy stores with wooden floors. The last bowling alley on the Upper West Side is about to be razed on Amsterdam Avenue. The oldest photo portrait studio in the city, at Amsterdam and 87th Street, closed this summer. The 95-year-old woman who ran it alone since 1912 begged for a break when the landlord doubled her $1000 rent. No dice. No rent control for commercial leases. In its place will be, perhaps, an overpriced cookie franchise or a trendy boutique. Or yet another Tofutti or gelato parlor.

Each old neighborhood store is like the last print of an old movie. What do we need old films for if we can generate more money with new ones?


© 2016 Josh Alan Friedman

Monday, July 4, 2016

SIXTY, GODDAMMIT: New Album Available Now!



Josh Alan’s first album in 15 years. Atomic acoustic blues-funk-rock. Can you dig it?

SIXTY, GODDAMMIT? Ya damn right.

Track list:

1. This Radio Don’t Play Nothin’ but the Blues
2. Theme from Shaft
3. What’d I Say
4. I’m Blacker Than You
5. Cat’s Squirrel
6. Born Under a Bad Sign
7. Tush
8. Street Fight
9. Down Home Girl
10. Mystery Train
11. Deep River Blues II


Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King, 1988

B.B. shared himself with millions—this is but a moment I shared, where he talks about his guitars. From American Way, the in-flight airline magazine, of all places, April 15, 1988.






Photo: Kip Lott

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

TRUTHers Wanted.



Jerry Leiber. Doc Pomus. Ronnie SpectorDr. John. Mose Allison. David "Fathead" Newman. Keith Ferguson. Tommy Shannon. Joel Dorn. Cornell Dupree. Sam Myers. Andrew Baxter Jr. Rick Sikes & the Rhythm Rebels

The classic collection by Josh Alan Friedman returns in a big new edition from Wyatt Doyle Books/New Texture. 

Available NOW in paperback, ebook, and limited edition hardcover.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Josh Alan Brings TRUTH to the Wildcatter Exchange!



The new, definitive edition of Tell the Truth Until They Bleed premieres this month in paperback, ebook, and as a limited edition hardcover. Truth's release coincides with Josh Alan's Wildcatter Exchange appearance at Landers Machine Shop (207 E Broadway Ave., Fort Worth 76104) on Saturday, March 28th at 4 p.m.

For the full schedule of events, visit the Wildcatter Exchange's website, here.

 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

#SaveNYC



"When I say they've destroyed New York's old stores, bars, restaurants, hangouts, I'm saying the real estate market has destroyed the sacred watering holes and gathering places of the 20th century."

Click here to watch.

Visit #SaveNYC and do something about it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Je Suis Goldstein!

What we can do in America. Je suis Charlie, from the memory of Screw.

 




Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Deeply Moving, Deeply Funny, Deeply Tragic, Absolutely Unique"


Read Tim Sommer's thoughts on Black Cracker in their entirety at The Brooklyn Bugle, here.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bruce Carleton at SCREW

click to enlarge

This double-truck centerfold was a collaboration between myself and Bruce Carleton, Screw’s art director. Carelton was also founding “art director” of Punk Magazine—a local, no-money periodical at the time, but one that would have a profound impact on the culture to this day. Punk—as music, art and movement—seemed to grow out of this publication. John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil founded the mag, but Carleton gave shape to the punk ethic and style, at least in print. Grafitti-inspired lettering and graphics, fumetti and Lower East Side imagery in its post-nuclear glory.

In the late ’70s, Carleton himself lived in a bombed-out tenement run by The Purple Man, a visionary Lower East Side hippie. His rent was $50 a month. A Midwestern Clark Kent of a gent (he even wore the same glasses), this Kansas-born artist was modest and mild-mannered. Not a rat-race runner reaching high ground in New York’s art world, which his talent warranted. And so, one day, without warning, Bruce Carleton vanished. Months passed before we got word at Screw that Carleton had relocated to the jungles of Borneo. Or Jakarta or Burma.

 
A year later, he returned one afternoon and enchanted us with a photo slide show depicting ancient Buddhist temples and rainforests. And in the middle of it all was Carleton himself, reclining on a hammock with a daiquiri or some cocktail, attended to by Polynesian-type island maidens. The next day, he went back to Borneo, where he stayed for over a decade. He’s now apparently back in Kansas. Carelton’s layouts for my own pieces in Screw—particularly a two-part story on Plato’s Retreat’s Larry Levinson’s record-setting exploits, later to appear in Tales of Times Square—were exquisite.

 

© 1981, 2014 by Bruce Carleton and Josh Alan Friedman

Monday, May 19, 2014

WANTED! More Readers Like...

From the editor's desk:



The French Connection. The Exorcist. Sorcerer. Cruising. To Live and Die in L.A. Killer Joe.

Pantheon filmmaker William Friedkin does the cover.

Mr. Friedkin's autobiography, The Friedkin Connection, is now available in paperback; order your copy from Dark Delicacies, a fantastic independent bookshop.

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Who Knocked Up Lady Di?" [1982]

Shortly after her marriage to Prince Charles, the Lady in question mysteriously came into the family way, leaving some curious about the origins of the future King of England, Prince William. Editor Richard Jaccoma and I ran this confiscated Royal Communique illustrated by Drew Friedman as the centerfold of Screw #672, Jan. 18, 1982.

There is no doubt that someone on this page was responsible.

The age and binding of the archival copy hampered clean reproduction, leading to some digital reconstruction.



Copyright © 1982, 2014 Drew Friedman

Visit Drew Friedman.net

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Rictus of Death in America


"Dante's Inferno," artwork and photograph © 2014 Nitu N. Daniel

The following appeared in slightly different form in The Dallas Morning News, Sunday April 6, 2014.

I’m willing to wager there are people in insane asylums as a result of dealing with the Social Security Administration. In my mother’s time of need, when she was moved to a nursing home, Social Security cut her off. Finding out why and trying to correct it has opened my eyes to a dysfunctional bureaucracy of systematic torture. It has been a full-time job for nine months. Allow me to share my tale of torment, if you will.

My mother is an 82-year-old American citizen living in Toronto, where she taught acting for the last 20 years. She was a casting director and acting teacher in New York for 20 years before that. A landed immigrant in the great society of Canada. Suffering severe memory loss, the last few years have rendered her unable to carry on her life and work. By September 2013, with terrible sadness, she had to retire to a nursing home in Toronto.

The moment she moved, her Social Security inexplicably stopped. As her oldest son and only advocate, I alerted SS and filled out forms at her Toronto bank during the excruciating weeks of apartment clearing and transition. Letters and phone calls to Social Security went unanswered. I was once left on hold for a half- hour before the line disconnected. It is implied that if you show the slightest bit of irritation they will cut you off. I have endlessly endured those opening three minutes of sickening teleprompts and soul-sucking announcements—a hollow, spinsterly voice on loan from the Women’s Correctional Department.

So I trudged to the Social Security Administration in Dallas, on Central near Royal, and was told to come back with this or that form. This, after taking my ticket and waiting an hour each time. Waiting next to me in the crowded Dallas office were two confused and disgruntled old men. They concurred that the clerks all begin with a presumption of fraud. Understandable. But what about people trying to get their Social Security checks?

During the first two visits they nitpicked at forms, which inevitably had something filled out “wrong.” They rejected my power of attorney papers—which were drawn up in Canada—and said they had to be signed by an American judge. I ended up getting a notary public to sign on top of other notaries public, to authenticate papers that don’t even replicate a notary public’s raised notary in Kinko’s best machines.

Several grinding visits later, I was brushed off by a clerk who for some reason sent me to the IRS. So I trudged to the IRS and was told to return with this or that form. Each visit required a paid parking lot and an hour wait. Since everything was hunky dory, tax-wise, a higher IRS official finally said, “What are you doing here?” She insisted the IRS was independent of Social Security and had nothing to do with my mother’s Social Security check (which, if it existed, would now be her only income). It took three visits to establish this information. Obviously, I am not a tax attorney.

Meanwhile, no explanation was given for why my mother’s checks stopped. This “right to discovery” as it’s known in the American court system, was denied. I was dealing with the old KGB when I pleaded for an explanation as to why her check was cut off. “We can’t tell you,” said each clerk. No matter how many times I made clear that my mother was disabled with dementia, they continually insisted they would have to “speak to her first,” or “could only tell her.” Four voicemails were left by the nursing home, one of them my mom’s own voice stating who she was and that her son takes care of business. Finally, a woman—we’ll call her Mrs. Goldberg—at the Dallas Regional Social Security decided this was “sufficient proof” my mother was alive. It had taken six months before this reason why my mother’s checks stopped was revealed: Social Security said they didn’t know where she was. Never mind the nursing home bills, bank statements and records I displayed.

Mrs. Goldberg represented a breakthrough. A personal contact! The first clerk, after months, to actually look up my case. Mrs. Goldberg! I had found a friend at Social Security. One that would do her job. When she found out I was a writer, she even told me about her husband’s unpublished novel, hinting that maybe I could read it. We even exchanged information about delicatessens. Yes! I’d plow through a mountain of gibberish, heap praise upon Mrs. Goldberg’s husband’s unpublished novel. Just resume my mother’s Social Security.

She agreed to restart my mother’s checks. So began a comedy of errors over the next few months in which endless phone calls were exchanged with Mrs. Goldberg. The labyrinth of bureaucratic hell deepened.

Enter the banks. Four of them in succession. They required doctor’s letters (which are like trying to extract blood), more notaries, forms out the kazoo. I had already done all this at my mother’s Toronto bank. After which they wouldn’t accept American funds by direct deposit. Only a physical check. But Social Security wouldn’t send a physical check to Canada, only direct deposit. When accounts were established, two banks rejected the back benefits that finally arrived. If one bank would agree to something, Social Security would not. And vice versa. Each was oblivious to the other’s protocol. As if the banks and Social Security colluded to sabotage any option for deposit.

Yet the Social Security Administration has offices in U.S. embassies around the world. They are accustomed to direct deposits for Americans who reside in other countries. And Toronto is as close to the U.S. as it gets. Finally, an efficient Chase Bank official provided a special account copacetic with Social Security. Mrs. Goldberg was happy to report the money was finally sent. But apparently not to my mother’s account. All my mother’s residual back payments went to someone else’s account. To whom, Mrs. Goldberg doesn’t know.

Oh, Mrs. Goldberg, are you an innocent nincompoop, or part of some insidious conspiracy to defraud elders in order to cut back the budget? You were to be my angel of mercy. But you turned out to wear the rictus of death. How many elderly have perished in penury by your dyslexic hand?

The Social Security Act was signed by FDR in 1935, part of the New Deal, a payroll tax my mother paid into for decades. But today, they are there to oppose, to frustrate into exhaustion and defeat.

Mrs. Goldberg is presumably under the direction of one Sheila Everett, Regional Commissioner for Dallas. There are 1,400 such regional and field offices in the U.S. From Social Security’s website: “...we are ‘the face of the government.’ The rich diversity of our employees mirrors the public we serve.” The Social Security Administration is requesting $12 billion from the budget for administration expenses in 2015. But they don’t provide emails or take calls. And Commissioner Everett didn’t respond to letters about such matters as my mother. She’s too busy running Social Security.

© 2014 Josh Alan Friedman