Friday, January 29, 2010

Crossroads (w/Bugs Henderson)



Josh Alan and Bugs Henderson. You can't hear Josh's vocal, can barely hear Bugs' guitar and whoever taped this left all the time code on. So it's perfect for YouTube!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Josh's Lost New York

Melody/Harmony Burlesk co-owner, Al Kronish, and stripper Kristina Fox.

© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Monday, January 25, 2010

Joe Monk


When my guitar teacher, who was a hippie on Long Island in the 1960s, exhausted his limited repertoire, he said, mysteriously: “There is a man called Joe Monk. I have no more to show you. You must now go to him.” As if I outgrew the local dojo in ancient Japan, I then left home to train with a great samurai.

The sojourn led to a tiny, smoke-encrusted studio above a dumpy boulevard in Little Neck, the border of Queens. And there sat Joe Monk, a Long Island institution, hung over, cigarette dangling from his lip, an old Gibson ES-175 on his lap. He dashed off arrangements by rote on a music stand. There were yellowed 8x10 publicity pictures affixed to the wall, photos of forgotten jazz trios and quartets from which a younger, more ambitious version of him posed in the guitar seat. The kind of guy you’d call a “cat.”

Thus began the first of about two dozen lessons with Joe Monk. I treasured each one. There might have been more, but he didn’t always show up.

Monk’s jazz life outside his second-story studio, which often shifted to new locations around the town of Great Neck, was cloaked in mystery. Did Joe Monk carry some profound musical disappointment on his shoulders—or were his greatest aspirations to teach thousands of kids to play guitar? He never released an album, and they said he “turned town” the guitar chair in The Tonight Show orchestra. He played at some joint up on a hill known as a “cheater’s bar,” presumably where adulterous couples could rendezvous in candle-lit red booths, huddling undiscovered over martinis. Kids couldn’t go there.

But imagine my delight when I came upon a tribute site (JoeMonk.com), run by Andy Gertler out of Great Neck. Finally, a posthumous CD (Joe Monk Live at Club 40—1962) was released. Like the best live jazz records, we hear Monk through cocktail chatter, glasses clinking, a cash register and bar phone ringing. How could a man with such mastery over traditional jazz guitar have never laid down an officially released album? In the 21st Century, any half-assed guitar teacher has a row of self-released crap for sale. The technology wasn’t there in the ’60s, and I doubt Monk would have obliged anyway.

Teaching five-dollar, half-hour lessons was Monk’s forte. He told cornball jokes: “A little higher, Meyer.” He gave lessons to James Brown’s guitarists, who came back to visit and jam in his little studio. I didn’t fully understand what James Brown’s guitarists did or what their job description required, but it sounded awfully cool. Sometimes a few balding, middle-aged men came in with guitars, fellow pros from the 1950s jazz circuit, circling around Joe and jamming on stuff beyond my 13-year-old comprehension.

“You’ll probably grow up to be some rock ’n’ roll star,” Monk would say, stubbing out his cigarette, with shrug of fait accompli. I never particularly liked jazz, but loved guitar, so I took to the challenge of Joe Monk’s arrangements. I now think of jazz as what the music becomes when it is imitated or taught—the originators of it just play music. Well, Joe Monk Live at Club 40 does sound like jazz, but they are the guitar lessons come to life. Monk never had a properly produced album release in his 68 years, which would have sounded like music.

You hear all those arpeggios and modes, what Joe wrote down as “jazz,” after you learned the basic arrangement. Joe glides over chord changes with seamless dexterity. You can’t tell where one scale ends and the next arpeggio begins, he’s so fluid. Most of his students would have applied the chords they learned to rock, which by the late ’60s incorporated anything and everything. Monk dashed off his fabled arrangements effortlessly, with an exhale of Kool cigarette smoke, distilled from his years of playing standards. I’m glad to see on the website they are extremely valued today. The two Schirmer’s music books I saved now seem holy.

When I was 16, about to move to New York City, I mentioned I’d be taking lessons from Jim Hall. Joe was taken aback. No name, short of Wes Montgomery, had more weight amongst jazz guitarists than Jim Hall—who wasn’t known to ever give lessons. Hall was down on his luck for a moment, having to take a gig in The Merv Griffin Show orchestra. (Jim Hall’s stint on Merv Griffin was probably the low point of his career. It didn’t sound like much at the time, when our heroes headlined the Fillmore East. But today, when most guys are out of work, a guitar gig on The Tonight Show seems like a pot of gold, and those cats hold onto their chairs for decades.)

It was a mistake to tell Joe about Jim Hall. During my last few lessons, if I played something wrong, he’d grow indignant: “Don’t you tell Jim Hall I showed it to you that way.” Jim Hall, the gentleman wizard of jazz guitar subtlety (so subtle, it conked you on the head), resembled a Baptist minister. His lessons, given to a lucky handful (Paul Simon took a few), were $20, while Joe’s remained at five. I ended up only taking two. Jim Hall was no Joe Monk.

In my 25 lessons over three years, I never fully conquered the nitty-gritty of jazz improv—the theory of which scales to use over which changes. It still stumps me, and nearly every other professional blues guitarist. I’ve let it go, believing only Joe Monk could have fully passed on this knowledge. I’ve studied hundreds of players on thousands of records, but never fully figured it out. So I’m not a jazz guitarist, I just fake it on jazz. But if only I could have had a dozen more lessons with Joe. . .


© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Friday, January 22, 2010

What'd I Say



Josh Alan live at Uncle Calvin's, Dallas, Texas, Aug. 17, 2007

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Josh's Lost New York

My good friend, Don Normal, lived in an entire condemned building on 42nd St. in the 1970s.

(photo by Vince McGarry)

© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Sunday, January 17, 2010

FAMOUS MONSTERS and the Back-Issue Store

Wrote this for a ’zine called Scary Monsters, for a Forrest J Ackerman tribute, after he passed away in Dec. 2008. Ackerman founded Famous Monsters of Filmland, coined the phrase sci-fi, and was the world’s foremost collector and spreader of the faith. It’s not much of a tribute to Forry, just a remembrance.

In the 60s, when we were quite young, my brothers and I bought Famous Monsters at Vic’s, a candy stand in Glen Cove, Long Island. I didn’t know how they got there, but the arrival of each new issue, hot off the press, was one of the great thrills in life. Ol’ Vic threw sawdust on the wooden floorboards. The whole place smelled like a heady mix of candy, sawdust and fresh newsprint. Mad and Famous Monsters were soul-saving alternatives to the mandatory Highlights for Children and Jr. Scholastic, force fed at home, school and dentist.

I profoundly identified with Frankenstein and wished to know him personally. The pipeline into this fantasy was provided by Forrest J Ackerman (he never used a period after the “J”). Ackerman made timeless icons of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr., thrusting their films from the ’30s and ’40s into the present moment. I wondered whether Boris and Lon, still alive and working in the ’60s, appreciated the magnitude of this.

In 1964, my dad brought home a newsstand copy of Bestsellers, a publishing industry sales guide.


My two brothers and I contributed to this $30 MILLION jackpot mentioned on the cover above. FM’s intoxicating mail-order back-pages were known as Captain Company. We ordered our Don Post monster masks from there, Arch Oboler’s masterpiece LP, Drop Dead, 8mm films and creepshow paraphernalia. Captain Company was likely handled by some fat, cigar-chomping huckster stuffing envelopes in a Pennsylvania warehouse. The most shameless thing they advertised were spider monkeys, with “guaranteed live delivery,” which I also imagined the fat guy loading into boxes.

In 1968, our dad discovered another warehouse in an old office building on 32nd Street, across from Penn Station. The creaky elevator opened upon this Shangri-la, run by actual cigar-chomping fat guys. It became enshrined in our childhood as “The Back-Issue Store.” Unknown and hidden from the public (would anyone else have cared?), it was the greatest discovery of our lives. A million old magazines moldered in unkempt rows. (Hidden in the back was a stash of underground full-frontal nudist magazines, but that’s another story.)

A formidable shelf of FM’s dated back to the 1950s. I found numbers 4 and 5, as well as the Dwight Frye cover (#18), the Zacherley cover (#15) and “Lost His Face” cover (#16). These were long sold-out back issues that we’d coveted for years, each one a Holy Grail, filling gaps in our collections that once seemed inconceivable. (There were also 1950s mint condition Mad Monsters, Horror Monsters and Journal of Frankenstein, as well as 1950s Mad’s.) I still have—and treasure—all of them.

Thank you, Forry.


© 2008, 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Friday, January 15, 2010

Down Home Girl



Song by Jerry Leiber and Artie Butler--with some new down-'n'-dirty verses added by Jerry since the Coasters recorded it. Josh Alan live at Uncle Calvin's in Texas, Aug. 2007.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Josh's Lost New York

Peg-legged stripper and second-story cat burgler, Long Jean Silver, backstage at the Avon 7.

© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Monday, January 11, 2010

Larry McMurtry—At the Winedale?

Reprinted from the Dallas Observer, Nov. 15, 2001:

I've always believed that the humble Winedale Tavern, a shotgun railroad bar on Lower Greenville Avenue, attracts the most democratic mix of humanity of any club in Dallas. Both the homeless and celebrated sit stool by stool, on even keel, protected by embryonic walls—a room that somehow amplifies the warmer overtones of a person’s voice, as well as the musician’s guitar onstage. The meek are not afraid to make grand exits, bold gestures, marriage proposals. Derelicts proposition models, rich rednecks tip hundred dollar bills. Good and bad musicians are welcome. Some refuse to play there, considering the Winedale beneath them.

Fred Gleber, my Monday night drummer for over a year, left our Winedale gig directly to play with budding teenage country singer, LeAnn Rimes. I paid him $20 for his Monday night services during my second set. After “Blue,” which Fred drummed on, hit number one in America, I offered him his gig back at the Winedale with a five dollar raise. He fudged quite a few moments in consideration.

A Moscow contingent from the Russian Space Program actually landed at the Winedale one night. They sat in the back, quietly sipping Lone Stars. I sang “Georgia,” the Hoagy Carmichael standard, and dedicated it to our esteemed visitors. A cosmonaut stuffed a $20 bill in my tip jar and tearfully thanked me. He thought the song was about his homeland—Soviet Georgia.

Perhaps the most curious visitation to the Winedale occurred one summer evening in 1997. It was a Thursday night and a disheveled bon vivant strode to the stage while I set up my guitar.

“I’ve heard this rumor,” came the fellow. “Is it true that you are indeed the son?” He looked me in the eye with utmost sincerity.

“The son? Yes, what of it?”

“Your father is my hero,” he declared, sobering up. “I first read him at Northeastern. Then I went to Vietnam in 1966, where I read his books between raids. I went out and mowed down Viet Cong, high off reading his books and listening to Dylan. Killed a lot of ’em, too. How’s he doin’?”

I continued plugging in cords and arranging the PA. “Just fine,” I said. “Happy when he’s working on novels, not happy when doing screenplays.”

“I’m a writer, too,” said the gent. “Your father is my hero.”

“Mine too. Him and John Lennon.”

“Great choices!” yelled the man.

Neither of us yet mentioned anyone by name.

“You are talking about Bruce Jay?” I asked, to rectify any possibility of mistaken identity.

“Friedman!”

I nodded and the fellow bellowed, “He is the man!”

I told the ecstatic fellow I came to Texas in 1987, when by sheer coincidence, I happened to play some gigs with Kinky Friedman—who is not related. Folks in Texas kept asking if I was related to Kinky. No disrespect to the great Kinkster, but my lifetime identification as the son of Bruce Jay Friedman took precedence. That prompted me to drop the “Friedman” in favor of my middle name, a stage identity that fit neatly on marquees: “Josh Alan.”

Keenly sympathetic to my plight, the man hit his fist on the bar, demanding a bottle of champagne, top of the Winedale line, which is an $18 bottle of Corbal. He insisted I drink up on the spot—otherwise he’d polish off the whole bottle himself—which he nearly did anyway.

“You know, I’m a writer, too,” he stated again, slightly troubled. He continued to babble like white noise as I finished setting up the small stage.

“Let me introduce myself before you play,” he said with finality, extending his hand. “Larry McMurtry.”

I’d somehow pictured McMurtry as a quiet, professorial, bookish man. Taken aback, I asked him about his own son, folksinger James McMurtry.

“Fuck that!” he screamed. “You’re the son of Bruce Jay Friedman!” He’d picked up some ratty dame at the bar who instantly swooned over Texas’ leading literary light, and tongue kissed her. Then they sat down before the stage.

“Play McMurtry yer best shit first,” instructed a crusty old regular in the back, whom McMurtry had been sitting with. I began my Monday night set. McMurtry was up and groovin’, executing some weird kangaroo-hop around the bar.

“Hey, you,” yelled the bartender, keeping track of strikes McMurtry had been racking up. “Settle down!” Larry “Lonesome Dove” McMurtry was coming within one strike of getting kicked out of the Winedale, whose bartenders distinguish not between the homeless and the famous.

“The girl he’s with ain’t even good-lookin’,” cracked one boozer at the bar. “McMurtry could lay any movie starlet he wants.”
Oblivious to my songs as he danced a mad jig with his date, McMurtry hopped out of the Winedale to a limousine waiting at the curb. He announced he’d be bar hopping along the Avenue—but don't go away, he’d be back to the Winedale.

Indeed, several more times that evening, we were witness to Larry McMurtry on a bender.

I faxed my father the next day. “Had some adventures at the Winedale last night I thought you should know about.” I related the events above.

My father dashed back the following fax:

Dear Josh,

Saturday afternoon. Most beautiful day of the year. The whole world at the beach. Empty office building behind the Buick dealer, empty except for Rm 215. BJF sitting there because he feels he should be there, starts fleshing out a scene in Lawrence of America, play that may never be produced. It occurs to me that next time a kid asks me about being a writer, I’ll tell him the above which is representative. (This is not a sad story. Or maybe it is...)


In any case, then your McMurtry fax arrives—and that's what it's like to be a writer, too.


So thank you. I’d like to say I’ve arrived at the point where I don't need a boost, but it hasn’t happened yet. Mario [Puzo] has been after me to read, watch Lonesome Dove for years. So now I’ll do that.


Upon hearing of McMurtry's bender at the Winedale, Richard West, a founder of Texas Monthly, wrote a note assuring me McMurtry was not a man whose demeanor it was to hop around like a drunken kangaroo in bars. He was, in fact, a quiet, professorial, bookish man.

Larry has always been very conservative in his daily habits. Never drinks, workaholic... The idea of him drunk in the Winedale is laughable. I don’t think Larry’s ever been drunk in his life. Lots of famous girlfriends, so I've heard—Cybill Shepherd, Debra Winger, Diane Keaton, the American Indian novelist, Leslie Marmon Silko...the man understands women and writes well about them.

McMurtry’s bizarre appearance prompted other bookish events at the Winedale. Gary Acord, a regular at the Winedale pool table, appeared one evening with a box of his books, handing them out to everyone in sight. Nobody knew he was a writer. He was a former boxer whose pro career stood at 19-3. Rarely seen without a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, Acord had an ever-protruding pot belly. But like many old boxers, he swore he was in top shape, as sharp in the ring now as in his prime, 20 years ago.

The book he had written was called Heaven on Earth: A Bold Affirmation of Humanist Faith, published in 1977 under the “Wotta World Books” imprint. No one had heard Acord preach Humanist Faith before. Bartender Steve Vail viewed Acord cockeyed the whole night, suspicious he’d plagiarized the thing.

The next weekend, I took notice of Helen Bryant’s column in the Dallas Morning News. Headlined “Sam, I am?” it broke the story of a Larry McMurtry impostor who’d been working his way across Greenville Avenue, on down to Laredo:

He buys people drinks. He runs around in a limo. When people bring him Larry McMurtry’s books, he signs them. He’s broken at least one heart under Larry’s name. And he’s fooled some savvy bar owners, who’ve called us to gleefully report the presence of the famous author.... A young Dallas woman he dated was crushed to learn, from a literature-loving friend, that her sweetie was not the Larry McMurtry—though she did wonder why he asked her to call him “Sam.” ...one barfly asked the alleged McMurtry, ’Why'd you kill off Gus?’ The man looked confused. Not only did he not write Lonesome Dove; apparently he hasn’t even read it.

I dashed off the following fax:

Dear Dad,

New twist in the McMurtry story. Hope you didn’t run out and read/rent the Lonesome Dove trilogy.


Saw this in the paper tonight [newspaper column encl.]. Most likely, I was approached by the impostor. But rest assured you are definitely the impostor’s favorite writer. Sorry.


My father's response:

Dear Josh,

Somehow I detect the fine hand of Mel Shestack [legendary master of the "gentle con"] behind this scam. Is it possible that he's moved his operation to Texas? In any case, I still plan to follow up on Lonesome Dove, although not this week.

According to sportswriter Mike Shropshire, impostors thrive in Dallas. On any given night, there are seven Tony Dorsetts working the shithead bars seducing women. Dallas is the perfect town for impostors. “Dallas aspires to be cosmopolitan, fawns over celebs,” Shropshire commented, when hearing of the McMurtry scam, “but it’s still too provincial to recognize the real McCoys.”

Years ago, some fellow went around Dallas impersonating chief Little Rascal, Spanky McFarland (born in Big D). Around the same time, some portly fellow actually went around Fort Worth as Joe Besser—though to what possible end remains unclear (Besser was Shemp’s 1950’s replacement in The Three Stooges, and previously played the effeminate “Stinky” on The Abbott & Costello Show). For decades, any number of elderly Black men have passed themselves off as Buckwheat, Stymie or Farina.

Compared to character actors, novelists are not common fodder of impersonators. So I sent an inquiry to Larry McMurtry himself, in Archer City, Texas. McMurtry wrote back:

The man’s name is Sam Botts. He’s been doing it here and in Mexico for 10 years. I think he’s in Austin now. There’s no legal recourse."

Why not pass on legal recourse and have his legs broken, I wondered. But I always remained curious about what made this fellow tick. So recently, I tracked down Sam Botts—if indeed that was his name—to Fort Worth. His public record was not impressive, just some old marijuana bust and a divorce. An elderly woman’s voice—presumably his mother—answered the phone. “What do you want with Sam? You didn’t meet him in a bar, did ya?” she asked worriedly.

“Yes, we talked about. . . Larry McMurtry,” I said, in which she interrupted, exasperated. “Yeah, yeah. Sam can’t come to the phone.” He was in his room being “punished.”

The next time I called she said he was out. Asked when he might return, she said, “Maybe a few minutes—or could be two or three weeks.”

I called a week later and Sam the man answered himself. Finally, here he was on the phone, the very man who didn’t write Lonesome Dove. I invited him to a party for Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, to perhaps read a chapter. I reminded him of his night of revelry at the Winedale. He didn’t remember. He said he’d never heard of Larry McMurtry, Bruce Jay Friedman, Terry Southern—or even Josh Alan or the Winedale for that matter. I should stop bothering him. End of conversation.

And so, when the moon is full and Sam takes his act back on the road, the Winedale awaits his return. The Winedale is a most democratic institution. Small though it may be, there's room for the homeless, the celebrated, for bums and models—and even impostors. Sam, come back.


© 2001, 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Friday, January 8, 2010

Born Under a Bad Sign



Josh Alan at Jefferson Freedom Cafe, Fort Worth, Sept. 20, 2008.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Josh's Lost New York


Twilight on Forty Deuce, 1979.

(photo by Harvey Wang, from Tales of Times Square)

© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Monday, January 4, 2010

Scuba Duba


As a child, I was given a rare glimpse into the explosion of off-Broadway theater in the late 60s. The 1967 season may have been the best ever, financially and artistically. Off-Broadway is where all the action was—a place where someone like Norman Lear could poach his ideas for future TV shows and the whole the zeitgeist would eventually be harnessed and watered down for the mainstream.

Pick a play, any play, and its small stage was likely to contain an eye-popping young cast. A $4 ticket led the way to George Tabori’s The Niggerlovers (with Morgan Freeman, Stacy Keach, Viveca Lindfors), or Murray Schisgal’s Fragments (with Gene Hackman, James Coco) or Israel Horovitz’s The Indian Wants the Bronx (with Al Pacino, John Cazale, Marsha Mason).

Hair
opened off-Broadway at the Public Theater, and featured real hippies off the street, coinciding with the counterculture in real time. It was followed by Your Own Thing and, later, by The Me Nobody Knows and Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death. In ’67 there was America Hurrah, The Boys in the Band, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, House of Flowers, MacBird!, The Electronic Nigger, The Beard, Curly McDimple. I saw a handful of these, and was not too young to absorb the excitement and irreverence coming off the stage.

In that faraway time and place called 1967, theater was a world where the playwright was king. Dig some of the names who debuted new work Off-Broadway that season: Truman Capote, Sam Shepard, John Guare, Graham Greene, Ed Bullins, Langston Hughes, and Vaclav Havel, later to become the first president of the Czech Republic when it broke from the Soviet bloc. (Imagine having David Mamet as president here.)

My dad’s play, Scuba Duba, the first smash of the 1967 season, had an intoxicating effect on the family. My mother woke me up at four in the morning and whispered in my ear: “It’s a hit.” As was customary in those days, cast and crew held vigil after opening night at some restaurant as newspaper, TV and radio reviews streamed in. Actors ran in from corner newsstands, presenting newspapers hot off the press. Reviews for Scuba Duba were foaming-at-the-mouth raves, capped by The New York Times. The Times had the all-powerful ability to single-handedly decree a hit or flop, out-weighing all other media combined. My mother and father stood stunned in the middle of the hurly-burly while notices were read aloud. That morning, my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Adelman, opened The Times and read Clive Barnes’ over-the-top review to the entire class.



Part of Scuba Duba’s trickle down effect on me was the pie-in-the-sky illusion of fairy tale success. It happens in show-biz maybe once a year, and it happened here. Theater is a blood sport, and before opening, the play had gone through a year of agonizing toil and sweat. Frantic rewrites occurred until opening curtain. Having done nothing but work on this production a solid year, my father feared he would have had to sell the house if it didn’t fly. The director Steven Vinaver, a young, tweed-suited Brit, had just directed The Mad Show (the original Mad Show, which really was based on Mad Magazine). He spent a year in the trenches with my father, working Scuba Duba into shape. Then suddenly resigned a couple of months before opening, when all seemed hopeless. Jacques Levy came in to replace him. Vinaver was lured away by an offer to direct Vincent Price in a Broadway musical—which closed in three weeks. Poor Steve Vinaver—a brilliant man with untold promise in the theater—died shortly thereafter. Blood sport.

In a future essay, Clive Barnes cited Bruce Jay Friedman as the first to introduce obscenity and nudity to the New York stage. Scuba Duba contained a topless nude scene in the form of an aging stripper who suddenly cascades down the stairway (big stuff in those days—the audience was truly shocked).

But the subject of race (my personal obsession, if you haven’t guessed) was foremost in Scuba Duba. When the liberal protagonist’s wife runs off with a Negro scuba diver (Cleavon Little as "Scuba Duba") on the French Riviera, he suddenly becomes not so liberal. William Goldman’s The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway, about the 1967 season, details fistfights that broke out at intermission during Scuba Duba. Jerry Orbach’s dialogue called for him to say “spade,” and the night Goldman saw it, he recounts this outburst from the audience:

“NEGRO!” he shouts. SAY NEGRO!”

Everyone turns, trying to locate the sound. The actors, visibly and understandably unnerved, get a little more unnerved, because now, right there, smack in the middle of the play, this white guy gets up from right behind me, edges to the aisle and starts slowly down toward the stage. He is neatly dressed, grey slacks, double-breasted blazer, red turtleneck sweater, and he is holding his program out in front of him as he makes his steady way. All the time he is yelling at the actors: “WHAT KIND OF FILTH IS THIS?”

....Then the guy rips his program in half and throws it at the actors’ faces, and methodically moves away... out of the theater and gone.


One of my favorite passages in Scuba occurs when an Ugly American Tourist (Conrad Bain) relates his “Just Keep Those Eggrolls Hot” speech:

As long as they got those eggrolls I don’t care what kind of Chink they are. I been all over the world, but I can’t really settle into a place unless I know there’s a good Chink’s nearby.... We got one in my town, a kind of drive-in Chink’s. Night he opened up I was first in line. I said to him ‘You’re pretty goddamned lucky to be here, buster.’ He looked kind of puzzled, but he knew damned well what I was talking about. I said to him ‘Let’s say the dice had taken an extra roll. You could have been over there in Shanghai someplace starving to death.... You’d have beri-beri by now if you’d been over there. So you just keep those eggrolls hot, Mr. Chinkhead, and everything’ll be all right.’ ... We never had any trouble with the guy. Hell, for all I know he could have been a citizen or something, but that gets us right to my philosophy. Lay it on the line.

The theater, unique to New York until recent times, was then a bastion of breakthrough ideas and experimentation. Corporate dominance would soon put an end to that. There was an authentic counterculture at large in the late 60s, from which television would eventually take its cues and reap the bounty. The way I saw it, Steven Vinaver’s The Mad Show would trigger Laugh-In, John Avildsen’s movie Joe, with Peter Boyle, would water down into All in the Family, the zeitgeist of Catch-22 became M.A.S.H., and on and on. But many of these roads began on ol’ off-Broadway.


© 2010 Josh Alan Friedman

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jeff's Boogie



Josh Alan, live at Jefferson Freedom Cafe in Fort Worth, 9-20-08.

(Studio recording on the album Blacks 'N' Jews; available as a digital download here.)