Tales of Rock – Kurt Cobain’s Custom-Built Fender Mustang Is Up For Auction

Kurt Cobain’s Fender Mustang is being sold at auction by Julien’s Auctions. The custom-built electric guitar was played by Cobain during Nirvana’s In Utero tour, and after his death in April 1994 it was given to a fan by Courtney Love.

Cobain’s Mustang is being auctioned as part of Julien’s Icons and Idols: Rock ‘N’ Roll collection, which also sees lots such as a 1988 Guild GF-60NT formerly owned by Eric Clapton and the late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell’s 1993 Gretsch Duo Jet. And hygiene be damned; there are even a couple of Bob Dylan’s old harmonicas on there too.

The Mustang was built by Scott Zimmerman of Japanese guitar manufacturer FujiGen, who held the Fender Japan contract from circa 1981 to 1997. Fender reached out to Zimmerman in 1993 because the Fender Custom Shop was not equipped to build left-handed Mustangs.

(Image credit: Julien’s Auctions)

(Image credit: Julien’s Auctions)

(Image credit: Julien’s Auctions)

The Mustang was among 10 ordered by Fender, with six in Fiesta Red and Sky Blue finishes being sent to Cobain before his death. It was shipped along with another Mustang on 22 October 1993, and those are the only two to have the “Offset Contour Body Patented” decal on the headstock. This Mustang was later modified by Cobain’s guitar tech, who affixed a Gotoh tune-o-matic bridge and installed a Seymour Duncan JB-1 humbucker in the bridge position.

The label on the case indicates the guitar was called the Skystang III, and the guitar comes with the case and a letter from Courtney Love to a fan, plus FedEx receipts and other ephemera as proof of authenticity.

Bidding is presently at $75,000, with one bid accepted. Julien’s Auctions expect it to fetch between $300,000 and $500,000 when the auction closes on 25 October.

See Julien’s Auctions for more details on the guitar and to view the other items in the catalogue.

 

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Michelle – Chapter – 23 – One More After This, And Then I’m Done

I don’t really go on social media anymore.

I don’t care about your lunches, or dinners or events or your social events

It means nothing to me. I used to post everything I was doing on my social media when I was working in advertising.

But no more. I live a private life and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

Social media’s a sad symptom of our society that gives every moron on Earth a voice.

I’m tired of you all. I see you all for who you really are and the pool is so shallow I see nothing in any of you anymore.

But for a moment I saw something that caught my eye.

My former girlfriend Michelle was pregnant with a little girl due in June. (It already happened)

She’s finally reached all of her goals of having her health, a happy marriage with her husband and now a child is on the way.

Well done.

It’s good we’re no longer in touch.

My work is done and you have no longer any use for me.

Perfect.

I’ve lifted you to the place I have hoped for you.

I think we both agree that what you have now is what we both hoped for you all along.

Well done, Michelle.

We had a great time, but you’re needed where you are now. You made it, and now you have all of the things you want.

I am honored we had the time we had together. It was the best time of my life, but now you’ve found true happiness and all of the things you wanted.

God Bless you both and I wish you all only health, happiness and the wellness of your child.

Michelle, you finally got the perfect life you always wanted. You have the perfect marriage with the man you’re supposed to be with, finally! I’m so happy for you. You live in the place you’ve always wanted to be in and have the job you always dreamed of.

Perfect.

I hope your baby girl is born happy and healthy!

God bless you all!

You did the right thing.

 

I’ll be at the bar…

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Phicklephilly 2 is coming soon on Amazon!

 

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Phicklephilly Reaches 100,000 Visitors!

Well, we’ve reached another milestone here at Phicklephilly! We finally achieved 100,000 visitors!

 

When I started writing this blog 4 years ago, I never thought I’d reach these kind of numbers! Thank you to everyone who’ve taken the time to visit, read, like, comment and follow Phicklephilly. 100,000 visitors has translated into 168,000 page views so far. I hope to get to 200,000 by years end!

I’ve tried over the years to bring you the best, fun, and informative content I can. A lot has happened during 2020! Despite the obvious challenges we face in the world right now, I’ve taken this time to let my creativity flourish.

In the Spring, I released the book, Crazy Dating Stories. I compiled as many insane dates from hell from my life that I could remember. The book’s done well. Apparently people like to read about insane dating stories.

Summer brought the publication of my first work of fiction, Angel with a Broken Wing. That’s been a great seller and I’m so happy it’s done as well as it has. I have another work of fiction I’m currently working on entitled, Below the Wheel. It’s a hard boiled detective story that takes place in Camden, New Jersey. A couple of young private investigators get caught up in a serial murder case. I hope to publish that in early 2021.

100,000 Visitors!! Thank You!! | The Swiss Rock

I’m happy to announce the anticipated release of the sequel to Phicklephilly next week! The long awaited, Phicklephilly 2 will drop on the 14th! This book picks up where the first book left off. I was now fully ensconced in an exclusive relationship with my girlfriend Cherie, and how that all went along over two years. Michelle makes a few appearances, and there are some surprises along the way. (Some good… others, not so good.) I had a good time, but I really learned a lot about myself being in that relationship, and writing that book.

I can’t promise anything, but there is a possibility that the long awaited, Sun Stories: Tales from a Tanning Salon, may be dropping soon as well. I’m just working through some contractual things and issues in pre-production on that book. It’s a wild story that starts out with some interesting funny stories, but slowly transforms into a series of intense encounters with some of the female clients. I never expected any of that to happen, but life is what it is, and why not do it all with a great tan! If I get a green light on that project I may have that out sooner than later!

I’m hoping to publish a book that compiles stories from my young life in 2021 as well. Two of my sisters think it’s a good idea for a book, so I think it would be fun to write.

I have also been in talks with a long time friend and comedian of mine, about writing a comedy called, The Last Video Store. So there’s a lot going on here at Phicklephilly studios!

Thanks again to everyone who visited the sight! I will continue to bring you interesting and engaging content everyday!

Onward and upward!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Phicklephilly 2 is coming soon on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

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COMING SOON… PHICKLEPHILLY 2

“He found love… but can he keep it?”

Love at First Swipe! 

Phicklephilly 2 is the sequel to the best selling book, Phicklephilly: One man’s journey to find love in Philadelphia. In the first book, our hero returned to the city in search of the perfect girlfriend. It was a funny, and sometimes heart wrenching tale of a man trying to navigate the pitfalls of the modern dating world. 

After two failed relationships, he turns to online dating. He goes on several crazy dates, but finally finds a woman he really likes. She’s a bright, unique beauty, but like all relationships, they face several challenges.

Phicklephilly 2 continues his journey and shows you what it’s like being in a relationship, and the dynamics that play out living in the city. But several factors work against them both at every step. Will the couple survive the pitfalls and demands of being in an exclusive committed relationship?

He doesn’t always do what’s right, but neither does she. This is his intimate story of what that’s been like for him. Join him to see if he wins… or loses again. 

There’s always three sides to every story. His side, her side… and the truth. 

 

PHICKLEPHILLY 2 will publish on September 14th!

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Sabrina – Post Birthday Brunch

Sabrina looms large in the phicklephilly universe. She first appeared two years ago as part of the Sun Stories series when I was moonlighting at the tanning salon. I met her through one of the other clients named Jill who was one of our regulars.

I haven’t seen or really spoken to Sabrina in a while. We cross paths on social media but that’s about it. She’s been a huge fan of phicklephilly for years, and for that I’m grateful. I remember she once said, “I love all the stories about all of these crazy women in your blog. I read them and pretend it’s me that’s doing all of these crazy antics.” I love that! It’s so nice to have people out there that love what I do. It keeps me going to write more content. It’s been hard the last few months, because there’s been literally nothing happening. I’ve been in quarantine for the last five months!

About a week or so ago, I liked something she posted on social media and she thanked me. Now I remember! She re-posted a pic of me standing in front of a poster of the cover of my last book, Angel with a Broken Wing. The caption said: Buy this book! Of course I loved that. But then she texted this, “Hey, me and Jill are going to dinner at Parc on Sunday. What are you up to?”

“When will you be there? Maybe I could swing by and say, hello!”

“5:30. Swing by. We’d love to see you.”

“Same! I’m gonna put that in my calendar!”

“Yay, I’ll tell Jill.”

I was excited. I need to start getting out more and creating new stories after all of this time in quarantine. So, on the day we were supposed to meet I sent her a text. “Are you still meeting with Jill at Parc today at 5:30?”

“Hey. No. Look what she sent me this morning.” (She enclosed a screenshot from her convo with Jill) It read: “Good morning. My dear friend please have patience with me. I can’t go to dinner today because I’m still broken, but the good news is I’m working on it. I’ve only had one therapy session, so it’s going  to probably take a few more before I can start becoming normal. I love you and miss you.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I know. I hope she gets better.”

“Yes. The important thing is she’s trying. That’s a lot. I was looking forward to seeing you.”

“I know, Me too! I’m in DC this week for work but I’m around Friday if you want to do lunch or dinner just you and I.”

“That would be awesome. Do you like Korean barbecue?”

“Yes!”

“I have just the place. I can do Friday around dinner time.”

Okay that works. What’s your usual work schedule?”

“I’ve been furloughed since March.”

“Oh, okay. Good for you for taking this time to write your blog and your books.”

“Exactly! It’s been a creative explosion for my daughter and me.”

So that’s bad news about Jill. If you want to learn about the full Jill saga, you can simply put her name in the Search bar on the homepage and you’ll find her history on here. It’s quite the story. Jill is a lovely, hard working woman who has a charming personality. But we all have our demons. For some it’s harder to spank them and make them pay.

So Friday rolls around, and I’m pumped to see Sabrina for some delicious dinner at my new hangout, Southgate.

Then I get this text: “Good morning! I am still in DC today for work so I’ll have to re-schedule our dinner. Could you do Sunday?”

“Sure. See you then.”

Then Sunday rolls around, (My birthday. We all know how that went. See: Iris – Happy Birthday Papa Squirrel)

I get this text: “Charlie, I hate to ask for another re-schedule but I have no car today due to check engine light coming on. If you’re open to one last change tomorrow at 5pm I’ll be so happy. I’m in the office tomorrow on Columbus Blvd. and can just Uber to location.”

“Okay.”

“Tomorrow at 5pm? Oh, you know what place I drove past the other day? Misconduct. Can we go there or are you set on the Korean BBQ? I am trying not to eat meat.”

“Misconduct at 18th and JFK is fine.”

“Yay, see you there at 5pm. Can’t wait to hear all about your life.”

“Yours too!”

So, Monday rolls around and I get this text: “Hey, can you meet sooner, like 3pm?”

An hour later I awaken from my nap and respond.

“Sure. See you then.”

“Okay, great let’s do 3:30pm. My meeting is still going on and will end at 3pm. See you there then. Sorry, last time change.”

“Okay, 3:30pm.”

So, I pull myself together, and spritz myself with cologne. I put on a clean shirt, and suit up to go meet with Sabrina after not seeing her lovely face for over two years.

I make the seven block walk up 18th street through Rittenhouse. I think back to when I first met Sabrina. She and Jill were both sharing some struggles in their lives. I remember when she said her boss where she was working had cut her hours. She was very upset and I told her to meet me at Misconduct, and I’d bring a big list of all of my business contacts, and we were going to find her a job. That day everything changed for her, she updated her resume and sent it out. Several businesses got back to her and she got a great job with a real estate development firm. She loves her job, and is still there today. That’s why she had to go to DC last week. I’m really proud of her and all of her accomplishments. She thanks for my faith, assistance and good energy, but it was Sabrina that made it all happen.

I get to JFK blvd. and head up the steps to Misconduct. One of the girls meets me and I think it’s either the hostess or my server or both. It turns out to be both and her name is Danessa. It’s funny now, I have to gauge peoples emotions by their eyes because everyone’s wearing a mask. She’s very sweet and shows me how to do the bar code thing with my phone but I’m already wise to that thanks to my birthday brunch with Iris.  I like that I’m a little early for my 3:30 meeting with Sabrina. Gives me a chance to get settled and order a drink. I order my signature Manhattan, because I know they’re good here.

The pictures don’t lie…

The dining room is obviously closed to the public but they have plenty of seats on the front deck. I love Misconduct. There are two of them, and this is their second location. I like this one the best. I have so many great memories from this location. I used to come here for lunch when I worked in advertising at Philly Weekly. It was a favorite of mine and my associate Rocco. We were the two old guys in the company. This is the place where I first met and fell in love with my muse for this blog, Maria. She was the inspiration for phicklephilly. She has a pretty long series. You can check out the first post here and decide if you want to go on.

Maria – Chapter 1 – Amor en Vano – Part I

I used to have all my meetings here at table 12. That was MY table. My friend Mary used to work here as a hostess. She’s got to be at least 75 years old now. She no longer works here. I should text her to make sure she hasn’t been taken by the Covid!

I brought my girlfriend Cherie here for her birthday a couple of years ago. Hell… that was the Fall of 2016! Time sure flies. You can check that out right here:

Cherie – Chapter 9 – Misconduct on your Birthday

So many good memories. I’m sitting there listening to some rock on my phone through my earbuds when a woman dressed in black wearing a mask approaches me. Oh my god, It’s Sabrina! She takes a seat and looks amazing. An ageless beauty! She orders a Cosmo and we catch up. She’s doing so well at her job. “I got my house, my kids, and this great job. Everything’s going so well.”

“I’m so proud of you, Sabrina. I knew you’d be a shining star. So, Danessa brings her a drink and off we go down memory lane. We ordered some delicious food. She went with the mac ‘n cheese, (Two different women over the last two days both ordered mac n’ cheese! Kismet!) I went with my favorite thing on the menu, the chicken tenders. (w/barbecue, honey mustard and buffalo dipping sauce!) Misconduct has the best chicken tenders in the city, They make then from scratch, Never frozen!

I hope phicklephilly isn’t turning into a food blog after all of this time in quarantine! It’s been a while for me, so for now, it’s all food and no romance for me yet!

We had a lovely couple of hours eating, chatting and sipping our delicious cocktails. It was a lovely post birthday brunch! This Leo is really feeling like a king this year. First James at the Drive In, then Iris at Lou Birds, now Sabrina at Misconduct! Too good for a man my age, but I feel great! I feel better and younger than I did in my thirties!

I was so happy to see Sabrina that I had to give her something. When we were finished brunch I handed her an envelope. I think she knew what was inside, based on the size and weight.

If anybody deserves a free copy from the author, Sabrina does. She’s been a friend and fan since 2017! She was really happy about getting a copy of Angel.

“Do you want me to sign it?”

“Yes!”

Of course I whipped out my black sharpie that I always carry for such events. I wrote her a nice little note and autographed the book. It felt really good to sign my work and give it to a friend who really cares, and will read it. The pleasure was all mine!

When the server Danessa came by, Sabrina held up the book to her. “Look at this. My friend Charles here wrote this book. He’s a writer!”

“Wow. That’s awesome!”

(I have to admit, I totally loved that moment. I felt like Hank Moody.)

The check came, and she wouldn’t even let me kick in.

“No. It’s your birthday, I got this!”

“Well, I can’t argue with that.”

We gathered our things and I walked her to her car. To my surprise it was a midnight blue Cadillac. Wow, our girl Sabrina is really doing well for herself. She gave me a hug, (masks on!) and she got in her car. She said she’d like to get together for lunch soon. I told her I’d be happy to travel down to the waterfront and dine with her anytime.

Well, it looks like phicklephilly is back in full force on the social scene and I couldn’t be happier! This has been a helluva great birthday thanks to all of the wonderful people in my life!

Thank you one and all! You’re keeping me young!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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So That’s Why They’re Called Hookers!

Workers in the world’s oldest profession have been called many things, but why hookers? Source: (history.com)
There are a surprising number of nicknames for the oldest profession in the world—call girls, streetwalkers, strumpets, ladies of the night—but the term you’ve probably heard the most is “hooker.” Unlike other terms, however, it is not easy to see how the euphemism connects to the activity. How exactly does sex work relate to hooks? Whatever it is, it sounds painful. On the contrary, however, it all goes back to a Civil War major, a rowdy New York seaport, and medieval pickpockets.

Major General Joseph Fighting Joe Hooker was a Union general who liked to have a good time. Source: (professorbuzzkill.com)

THE FRAT BOY GENERAL

In the early days of the American Civil War, the Union Army was led by Major General Joseph Hooker, who earned the nickname “Fighting Joe.” Hooker may have had commanding skills as a military leader, but his camp was in somewhat more disarray. Drinking, partying, and all-around debauchery was rampant under Hooker’s command. This type of behavior eventually led to Fighting Joe’s demotion, as his men were often too drunk, hungover, or sleep-deprived to be effective soldiers. After a few costly defeats, Hooker was replaced as leader of the Army of the Potomac.

The ladies of ill repute who followed the soldiers from camp to camp were called Hooker’s Division. Source: (photo by: bildagentur-online/uig via Getty Images)

HOOKER’S DIVISION

A common sight in Hooker’s camp, alongside the discarded vessels of liquor, were large numbers of prostitutes hoping to earn a few coins by keeping the lonely soldiers happy. Although there is no hard evidence to prove that Fighting Joe enjoyed the company of these “fallen doves” himself, he definitely allowed his men to partake of their services. The prostitutes who followed the troops from camp to camp were referred to as “Hooker’s Division.” Though it’s doubtful that this phenomenon alone is responsible for the term, it was a coincidence that certainly helped to spread it. A more likely origin point is …

This well positioned point on Manhattan’s Lower East Side was once called Corlear’s Hook. Source: (en.wikipedia.org)

A ROWDY SEAPORT: THE “RESORT FOR THE LEWD”

Another story claims that the word refers to a place, not a person. In New York’s Lower East Side is a point of land that juts into the East River that was known as early as the 1600s as Corlear’s Hook after an early plantation owner, Jacobus von Corlear. The man, by all accounts, was an upstanding fellow. His land, however, was a prime location for seafaring activities around the island of Manhattan.

Grover Cleveland frowned upon the large concentration of brothels in New York City. Source: (vox.com)

NEW YORK’S MOST NOTORIOUS RED LIGHT DISTRICT

By the turn of the 19th century, Corlear’s Hook was home to shipbuilders and a naval yard, and the influx of sailors to the area brought troves of business-minded women seeking to cater to their needs. Within a few decades, Corlear’s Hook was New York City’s most infamous red light district, boasting more than 85 brothels. One newspaper of the time wrote that the areas was “a resort for the lewd and abandoned of both sexes with its streets abounding every night with preconcerted groups of thieves and prostitutes.” The most notorious residents of Corlear’s Hook became known as “hookers.”

Medieval prostitutes often banded together to pick the pockets of their johns. Source: (daily.jstor.org)

MEDIEVAL PICKPOCKETS AND RIFF RAFF

Most of the prostitutes in the medieval era had particular sets of skills. In addition to the tricks of the trade, they were also petty criminals and pickpockets, and they were just as creative in this endeavor as they presumably were in their primary occupation. They used long poles with hooks on the end to snatch purses, satchels, and other valuables from their unsuspecting victims. It was often a collaborative effort, with one team member keeping the victim occupied while another used the hook to steal away his coin purse. The obvious nickname for this half of the team was hooker. Soon, the word “hooker” was just synonymous with “prostitute,” which must have been very annoying to the more pedantic members of the trade.

A hooker from the 1800s. Source: (bu.edu)

A HOOKER BY ANY OTHER NAME

“Hooker” is still a common term for a sex worker, but many bristle at it. Although the lines are somewhat blurry, there’s a definite hierarchy in the trade, and each rung has its own preferred terminology. The word “prostitute” itself is rather clinical. A “call girl” implies a high-end sex worker. A “lady of the evening” has a slightly old-fashioned and even romanticized connotation, while “streetwalker” conjures images of a desperate woman who has turned to the oldest profession due to unfortunate circumstances. But a hooker … now that implies a person belonging on the lowest rung of the hierarchy. It is a name associated with the loose women that frequented the Civil War camps, the soiled doves of the shipyards of New York, and the wicked thieves of medieval England. No, thanks.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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James – At The Drive In

A few days before my birthday, I get a text from James. “What are you doing tomorrow at 6pm?”

Of course I’m doing nothing but working on my new book, Below the Wheel. Just like everyday. “I’m free, dude. What’s going on?”

“Just be ready.”

I think I know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I’m super excited.

It was the Thursday before my birthday. James rolls up to my house at 6pm. I hop in the car and we’re off to parts unknown. (Known!) He drives his Kia Soul over the Walt Whitman bridge over to Jersey. Traffic is light and we’re making great time. It’s another rare, cool night during this heatwave. We drive down to Vineland, NJ. He’s got his navigation on and we get to our destination in no time. Plus, we’re always chatting up a storm so time flies by.  We’re both hungry and we decide to stop at a Wawa that’s nearby. We ordered some sandwiches, snacks and drinks and were back in the car in no time. We head down a long road and come upon this.

The Delsea Drive In is still a thing! OMG! I haven’t been to a drive in movie in 35 years!

https://www.delseadrive-in.com/

James had gone online, found the place, bought tickets, and a food pass. If you buy a food pass that gives you the right to bring in your own food from outside. Back in the 80’s when I used to go to the drive in in Rio Grande, NJ we never brought our own food in, but we certainly brought beer in! Like myself, James is a great planner. Behind my seat in the car is a cooler loaded with beer and spiked seltzers. (Yes!) I didn’t know what to expect but we pulled in and handed the necessary paperwork to the nice lady manning the ticket booth, and we drove on in.

It was early, and the show wouldn’t start until it got dark. We had some time to get parked in a good spot and get the lay of the land. It’s a great drive in movie theater. There are two screens playing different movies. Screen 1 is movies geared to grown ups and screen 2 is for families and kids. Which is great because then you know going into it, all of the noisy kids would be a hundred yards away at a different park facing the other way.

We devour our sandwiches, and are happy to have arrived safely without incident. There were a few vehicles around but they weren’t near us. Of course there were a lot of rules. Everybody must wear masks, if you want anything from the snack bar you have to order it online using your phone, and then go get in line to pick it up. Also, if you brought beach chairs you have to set them up in front of your vehicle, not next to your vehicle. Social distancing, people!

I tell James that I brought a small flask of bourbon and some party favors. (weed) Neither of us drank any whiskey or smoked pot deciding we weren’t there to get messed up. Especially since he was driving. I just brought it in case he wanted a little nip or a puff or two just to enhance the experience. But we decided against it. Didn’t need it. My daughter Lorelei had rolled a custom fatty for him, and I ended up giving it to him as a gift at the end of the night for…later!

I noticed that most of the vehicles that were there were sport utility vehicles. I forgot how popular they were. There are more sedans in the city, but in rural Jersey, it seems like everybody drives SUVs. I also noticed that most people backed their SUV’s or pick up trucks into their spots. They’d open the back hatch and sit on the edge of the bed, or sit in the bed of their pick up trucks. It was mostly groups of young people, couples, or parents with teenage kids.

Things haven’t changed much in regard to the drive in movie experience. The metal poles are still in the ground that once held the little drive in movie speakers you’d affix to your car window to hear the film’s audio track. The old metal weather resistant speakers are long gone. Now the metal poles only serve as markers as to where to park in this elegant anachronism.

Baby Boomer Memory Lane: Those Drive-In Movie Speakers

You now tune your FM radio to 90.5 and the sound comes through that way. It’s actually so much better because James has a thunderous sound system in his car. Thank you technology!

Darkness began to descend on the drive in. I was excited to feel what I once felt as a youth at the drive in. It was a cool night, so we sat with the windows down. There were happily no bugs. Mosquitoes can ruin any night out in the country. But as i sat there in his car I let myself lean into the experience. It was quiet. People were chill and the place wasn’t that crowded. More vehicles entered the park as showtime approached.

It was exhilarating to sit comfortably in the safety of my friend’s car. The place is surrounded by woods, so all you can see is night sky and trees all around you. Living in the city I am surrounded by glass, stone and steel all the time. Everyday I am surrounded by the city’s sounds and presence. But here was so different, especially after being locked in quarantine for four months. Now I was parked quietly in a park surrounded by nature. All I could hear were the sound of crickets, then the chirp of frogs and the occasional call of a bird. It was lovely and peaceful.

When the movie started, James handed me a cold one from the cooler. As I sipped my beer and puffed on my Juul, I felt a sense of bliss wash over me. That feeling is rare, but I love that feeling. I think we all do. When you’re someplace different, but you feel safe, with your friend and a movie about to start on a giant screen in the woods. It’s a wonderful feeling. Bliss.

It didn’t even matter at this point what movie was playing. Oh, drive in movies always show double features which I dig. I feel like I’m getting more of the thing I love. I wanted to get some bad drive in movie food, but the idea of ordering online and having to stand in line outside to wait for it just didn’t seem like a good idea to me. Besides, my belly was full from our Wawa dinner.

The first film was called The Rental, and was typical drive in movie trash. The second one was called, She Dies Tomorrow, which felt like a student art film. Both trash, but that’s what’s expected at the Drive in. I want bad cinema. Something light, scary and fun. It’s easy to follow and it’s all part of the experience. There’s even an intermission between each picture so you can get out, stretch your legs and hit the head. It brought back so many great memories from my past adventures. But I was so happy to be making new ones with my friend, James. Someone who would appreciate the drive in experience and enjoy it as much as me.

Snack bar and projection booth on the second floor.

Playing on the other screen was Shrek and the new Doctor Doolittle, starring Robert Downey Jr. James saw it before and he told me it is unwatchable! Ha ha.

It was a great night and brought back so many great memories. It wasn’t my actual birthday yet, but it certainly felt like it. I’m so grateful to have James in my life. He’s a good friend and knows what i like. I’m so glad I could revisit this lost piece of Americana with him. I get the memories and he gets a new experience that we got to build together.

Thank you James! You made my birthday awesome!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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The Dead End Kids

“The greatest, and most beloved bar band ever.”

Spring, 1980 – Wildwood, New Jersey

The family had been moved to our house in North Wildwood in the summer of 1979. My sister Janice had graduated from Frankford High in Philly and was off to college in the fall. The rest of us enjoyed the summer and I was enrolled in Wildwood High for my senior year. I could write a whole blog about that painful transition, but that’s not what this piece is about.

You can read about that here:

Wildwood Daze – Summer of 1979 – Moving the Family to North Wildwood

Wildwood Daze – Autumn of 1979 – Shadows Fall

In the Spring of 1980 I was walking to school with my best friend Wolfie. We called him that because the way he combed his hair back, the drummer in our band said he looked like Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman. Wolfie was the lead guitarist and an accomplished player. But more than that he was an enduring friend.

We were walking to school, I think it was June. We were down on Pacific Avenue and one morning we saw this guy. He was on the other side of the street and looked like a scruffy skinny rock star. But it was 8am in the morning. We were on our way to school and he was coming home from who knows where.

“That dude looks like Steven Tyler.”

“He does!”

So I decide to yell over to him. “Hey, Steven Tyler!”

The guy replies: “No. Dead End Kids.”

We had no idea who he was or what the dead end kids meant. We would occasionally see him on our way to school.

One night early that summer my sister Janice had come home from a night out with her friend Louise. She was a year older than me and the drinking age back then was 18 in Jersey. (I know, right?) They loved going out in the late 70’s to dance in the clubs. Disco was all the rage back then. (Much to my chagrin)

“How was you night out? Where did you guys go? I know the Fairview’s your favorite.”

“Yea, we went to the Fairview but didn’t stick around. They changed the place. There’s some punky band playing there now, so we have to find some other place to dance.”

Yea… she described them as punky.

So one night later that week, my friend Wolfie and I decided to check out the scene on Pacific avenue. The street had nightclubs and bars on every corner. We were in a band so we liked to check out other bands that were playing in the bars on the strip. Oh, Wolfie was 15 or 16 years old and I was 17 going on 18. We both carried fake ID’s but Wolfie rarely got carded because he looked older than me.

The London Ale House was a nice place to have lunch or dinner. It was the first bar/restaurant on the strip around Poplar avenue. The best band on the island played there at night. I guess they would clear out the tables and make space for the folks to come in and watch the band. That band was called Witness. All great musicians. I remember the singer was Billy Spence, a great singer and showman. The other personality that stands out in my memory was the lead guitarist, Steelman. Everybody loved Witness because they played, Springsteen, Billy Joel and Jethro Tull among other popular hits of the day. They were a spectacular cover band that was so good, they actually expanded the London Ale House to accommodate the crowds that would come to see them each night. They not only played great but put on an amazing show that was funny as well as entertaining, performing spot on renditions of many great hits in the top 40. They would go to Florida in the winter and play down there and then come back every summer to jam in Wildwood.

But we were looking for something new. We headed downtown on that warm summer night. The street alive with all of the sights and sounds of a typical evening at the shore. We came upon the Fairview and decided to check out the ‘punky’ band my sister had mentioned. The smell of stale beer and cigarettes hangs in the air. But something is definitely happening here. Something new.

I can’t find any good pictures online so you’ll have to settle for this sorry looking photo.

On Avenue with Many Closings, Nightclub Owner Plans Reopening ...

We get inside and it’s going. It was still early so the place wasn’t packed yet. The band is rocking out on stage. The Dead End Kids. 

Let me attempt to describe what was happening. First of all, Wolfie and me are in a band. We rock out, but we’re in high school. We’ve played some gigs and we’re a good band.

But these guys are rockstars. I don’t use that word lightly. People describe people doing their job at work or some other dumb shit as being a rockstar. Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones. They’re rockstars. Kelly James and George Rumbol of the Dead End Kids are Rockstars.

They play ferocious rough house rock, with all the spit, sweat, and attitude of the greats. They’re playing on this stage tonight like their lives depend on it. Sure the singer, the bass player and the drummer are all fine musicians, but Kelly and George ARE The Dead End Kids. They are living this life. I can see it. I can feel it in the first few minutes of seeing them play live. I want you to understand what I’m seeing and hearing. They rock hard and wear cool outfits, and look like they’re already at the next level.

The band Cinderella stole their act. The Dead End Kids were Motley Crue… before there was a Motley Crue.

There is nothing like this anywhere. They’ve replaced their guitar straps with seat belts from old cars. Why? Because the material is durable and slick. Why would you want that? So you can flip your guitar around your body. Literally fling it from the headstock so that it spins around your body and then you catch it, and keep playing. Original and incredible showmanship. I had never seen anything like it.

They played Wasted by a band no one had even heard of yet. That band had one record out. That band was called Def Leppard. They played Midnight Moses by the Alex Harvey Band. I had never heard of it before. It was spectacular. The band Dead Daisies does the song justice now.

The Dead End Kids are burning down the stage. George puts on a Bowie show that is so good, if you closed your eyes, it was as if David himself was there playing with some kick ass hard rock band. heir version of Moonage Daydream better than Bowie’s! I’ve never seen anything like it. We’re a couple of teenagers. These are men. Men who make kick ass rock and roll. Shit kickin’ hard rock.

Rough House Rock!

I had the opportunity to chat with Kelly at the bar one night. I told him about our band and how I was focusing my energy on writing original songs. Kelly advised me that I was on the right path. “Keep writing your originals, man. That’s what’ll set you apart from other bands. Sure, you gotta play the covers to get paid, but the real future is in original songs.”

“Thank you Kelly James!”

(These newspaper clippings from the Wildwood Leader are framed and hang on my wall)

Seeing the Dead End Kids play on a regular basis was like going to church for me as a young musician. I loved them and everything they did. It solidified the idea that I needed to go to California and try to become like them.

One night I was down front with Wolfie and we were rocking out to the kings. We were both half in the bag from pounding dollar Miller beers. These two older hot girls came up to us and started hanging with us. One was a blonde and the other had raven hair. We asked them their names.

“I’m Trigger, and this is Flash.”

“Do you girls turn back into horses at dawn?”

We totally made out with them that night. Kelly looked on from the stage nodding with approval.

We went to see them all summer long at the Fairview, and at The Hurricane East in 1981. Those were unforgettable times. I’ll never forget those guys.

Image may contain: 1 person, night

Years later, when I was married in the 1990’s I saw Kelly and George playing in a small bar in Westville, NJ as the Dead End Kids. I went to see them that night wearing my old Dead End Kids T-Shirt. I brought my guitar and they even let me come onstage and play one song with them.

Some wonderful wishes are actually granted.

I will always love The Dead End Kids and those incredible summers in Wildwood growing up. It was the perfect life. None of us even probably realized that we were living the very best times of our young lives. Summer days filled with fun in the sun and surf, but the nights were reserved for Things that go Rock in the Night.

Thank you gentleman. Thank you for the joy you brought to me and to so many other people during that magical window of time that only opens once… but closes forever.

Here’s some videos I found online. Enjoy!

 

Kelly James update 5/12/18…..

Well folks I hate to be the one to deliver the bad news but the Neurosurgeon just informed Kelly James that it is indeed cancer and is spread through out his entire body including his bones….started as lung cancer and spread….They may discharge him monday…Chemo is the plan for him. Please continue to pray for a miracle… Kelly is of course a much beloved guitarist from the legendary band “Dead End Kids“. Please send your prayers, and love out to Kelly, as well as his original band members Bill Mattson and Georgie Rumbol

Join The Group Here: Kelly James We Love You
Kelly James is battling an aggressive cancer throughout his body. Please join the group, and tell Kelly how much he’s loved, and respected. Kelly needs our support. Kelly is of course a much beloved guitarist from the legendary band “Dead End Kids”

*This was a post that Kelly’s good friend Shawn Cahill (Lickey Rifferson) posted….

Ray Koob – Jacky BamBam – Mike Vagnoni – Jeff LaBar

Image may contain: 1 person
Sadly, we lost Kelly James a month later. Rest in Power, my friend…
Long Live the King!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

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Tales of Rock: Remembering the Glam-Rock Bars of the Sunset Strip in the 1980s

What’s next for the place Vince Neil called a “cesspool of depravity?”

Welcome back to Tales of Rock, a look back at the great drinking scenes of yesteryear. Today, we visits Los Angeles in the 1980s to recount the nascent glam-rock scene that was then cropping up along the Sunset Strip.

In the early months of 1981, Vince Neil, Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx moved into a filthy, white apartment complex on 1124 North Clark Street. The two-bedroom was financed by their manager. In apartment #205, they wrote songs for their then-unknown band Mötley Crue, but they mostly drank and did drugs with an always-crowded house of people. Groupies would arrive in shifts, like hockey lines subbing in and out. Every night, the trio would leave their hovel and walk down the sloped block to what was becoming one of the greatest bar scenes in American history.

“We’d get drunk, do crazy amounts of cocaine and walk the circuit in stiletto heels, stumbling all over the place,” claimed Neil in The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band. “The Sunset Strip was a cesspool of depravity.”

Running through the city of West Hollywood between Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, this 1.5-mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard had always been a fairly wild area, due it being unincorporated (until 1984) and not under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department. Loosely overseen by the County Sheriff’s Department, no one really monitored what was going on — thus, it became a hotbed of liquor, drugs, nightlife and shenanigans.

In the 1920s the Sunset Strip had hosted speakeasies and underground casinos; the 1930s through ’50s would see glamorous restaurants and nightclubs spring up to be frequented by movie-industry hot shots; by the 1960s, hippies and the counterculture were slowly working their way there as clubs like Whisky a Go Go (1964), Pandora’s Box (1966) and the Roxy Theater (1973) sprung up and bands like The Doors dominated the scene; the 1970s saw more new wave and punk acts like The Stooges and New York Dolls.

It was the 1980s, however, when the so-called “Sunset Strip” might have reached its apex as, according to Rolling Stone, “big-haired dudes and the girls who loved them turned the boulevard into their own personal playground.”

The big-haired dudes of Mötley Crue would actually make their debut right off the Strip, as an opening act at Starwood on Santa Monica Boulevard on April 24th of 1981. Even if that early set included a cover of The Beatles’ catchy pop hit Paperback Writer, the raucous rockers quickly started setting a template for how to behave on the Sunset Strip. Especially as their shows moved to the Whisky a Go Go, just about 200 feet from their crash pad.

“Did I tell you about the time I tied a girl up in the Whisky bathroom with Mick’s guitar cable, and then went to get a bump of blow from Tommy?” Sixx told LA Weekly in 2011. “I forgot she was in there! I think Vince found her and everything was [fine]. Ah, to be in Mötley Crüe in 1981 in Los Angeles.”

Ah, to be anyone who visited the Sunset Strip in the early 1980s when, on any given night, the bars and clubs might feature sets from perhaps 75 to 100 emerging and already-made-it bands like Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, The Misfits, Motörhead and even Metallica, who first opened for Saxon at the Whisky a Go Go in August of 1982.

“I think of all the late nights and early mornings, probably the craziest year of my life in L.A.,” Lars Ulrich told Mick Wall for his book Enter Night: A Biography of Metallica. “Living everything that you can imagine when you’re twenty-six years old in L.A. and your dick is fucking six feet long.”

The favored haunt of many rockers was The Rainbow Bar & Grill, just across the street from the Whisky, at the corner of Crescent Heights Boulevard. (“[T]he reason is simple: the clam chowder,” Sixx once told LA Weekly.) It opened in 1972 by hosting a party for Elton John, but by the 1980s had become the after-hours hangout for various hair bands and their hangers-on.

“The place was set up like a circle, with the coolest rockers and richest deviants sitting at the center tables,” explained Lee to Curbed in 2019. “Guys had to be twenty-one to come into the club, but girls could be eighteen. The guys would sit at their regular spots and the girls would walk around the ring until they were called over to someone’s empty chair.”

After everybody was kicked out of the Rainbow, they’d spew into the parking lot to score drugs and girls, before heading back to 1124 North Clark. More and more bands started joining the party, but the Strip also had bars like The Comedy Store, where you might be able to see Robin Williams or Sam Kinison doing stand-up on any given night — it was wild even there, where “half-naked women draped over fat, out-of-shape funny men, booze and drugs flowing freely,” as Corey Feldman wrote in his memoirCoreyography. There were also gentlemen’s clubs like Seventh Veil and The Body Shop, both of which would eventually be name-checked in Mötley Crue’s Girls, Girls, Girls while providing some of the girls, girls, girls for the music video.

Further up the block, at Santa Monica Boulevard just east of Doheny Drive, was the Troubadour. Lenny Bruce had been arrested there on obscenity charges in 1962, and it was the place where Steve Martin was discovered. By the 1980s, however, it was all hair bands all the time. A Slash-less Guns ‘n’ Roses would play their first ever show there (where they were discovered by a David Geffen A&R rep at the club). Poison, too, would get their start at the Troubadour.

“When we finally pulled onto the Strip it was, ‘Holy shit!’” Bret Michaels recalled to Rolling Stone. He and his bandmates had driven in from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, in March of 1983. By then the billboards lining the Strip were going for $4,000-$6,000 a month in rent; pure vanity for the now-famous musicians who had actually made it at the clubs below. “We’re driving past the Rainbow, Gazzarri’s, the Roxy, the Whisky, and there’s gotta be, like, 100,000 people walking around. And they all look like they’re in a band. For a bunch of small-town guys, that’s a lot to take in.”

A block away from the Rainbow was Gazzarri’s. A sensation when it opened, the club was well past its heyday by the mid-1970s. Then Van Halen became its house band from 1974 to 1977 and put it back on the map. That ushered in a 1980s scene with bands like Quiet Riot, Warrant and Stryper, many of whom would eventually be honored with giant hand-painted murals on the outside wall of the club.

From the front steps of Gazzarri’s, 300 feet of Strip sidewalk led to a parking lot between the Rainbow and the Roxy Theatre. Aspiring bands would congregate there, passing out handmade show flyers, hustling for gigs, buying drugs, and getting into amorous hijinks.

“I saw so many people fucking on the lawns behind Gazzarri’s that I actually got bored of watching and started to throw empty beer cans at them,” Ratt frontman Stephen Pearcy wrote in his autobiography Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll: My Life in Rock.

It wasn’t all inconsequential fun, however. On March 4, 1982, Harry Dean Stanton and Robert De Niro coaxed a disheveled John Belushi out for a night of bar-hopping on the Strip, starting at On the Rox, the lounge above the Roxy. At the Rainbow he ordered not clam chowder, but lentil soup, before returning to bungalow No. 3 at the Chateau Marmont and overdosing on a speedball. As Shawn Levy noted in his book about the luxury hotel, The Castle on Sunset: “It stood slightly apart from the commotion around it — compact, old-world, elegant, just off to the side of the circus, much as it sat just off Sunset Boulevard itself. After Belushi, that changed.”

By 1984 the Strip was finally getting some legitimacy, especially when, according to Visit West Hollywood, “a coalition of gay men, Russian Jews and the elderly” successfully held a vote to incorporate the area as the new City of West Hollywood. Now under the watch of a city council run predominantly by an often persecuted, openly gay majority, the area was bound to stay a bit wild, but it would never be quite the same.

“The era of glam metal would be the last gasp of lawlessness on the Sunset Strip,” writes Hadley Meares on Curbed. Every band, fan and groupie started looking the same, and a few other things were about to spell its end. The arrival of grunge was one, with Nirvana rocking The Roxy as early as August of 1991. The growing corporatization was another, as high-priced hotels and condos sprung up, as well as theme-like chain bars like The House of Blues, “the toxic fruit of an alliance between Hard Rock Café co-founder Isaac Tigrett and the insufferably unfunny Dan Aykroyd,” according to LA Weekly. And if neither Belushi’s death nor Nikki Sixx’s near-brush with it in Slash’s room in 1987 didn’t slow down the party, River Phoenix’s 1993 overdose at the just-opened Viper Room would.

By 2005, a sanitized stage production called Rock of Ages (followed by a 2012 film of the same name, starring Tom Cruise as “Stacee Jaxx”) — with its storyline centered around the Sunset Strip in 1987 — was all that was left to honor the era. The Strip has now gone “From Louche to Luxury” as the Wall Street Journal write in 2018. “To make way for the new vision of Sunset, some of the most iconic symbols of its past are being demolished.”

Gazzarri’s closed in 1993, but the Whisky, Roxy, Rainbow and Troubadour still stand, though you’ll rarely see a major act appear there these days. Even the strip clubs are apparently no fun anymore; LAist by 2008 was calling Seventh Veil “The Least Exciting Strip Club in Hollywood,” with Jessica P. Ogilvie writing “The club had seemingly remained firmly, unapologetically and possibly even aggressively in the 80’s.”

Today, the Strip that was once described as a “cheerfully depraved Aqua Net playground” instead has over one million square feet of luxury hotels like 1 West Hollywood and condos like AKA West Hollywood, where single-family homes go for around $2.5 million. It has private clubs like Soho House and the Gwyneth Paltrow-backed The Arts Club (which replaced a Hustler Store they bought for $18.3 million); there’s an Armani store, a Fred Segal and a Warby Parker; you can even get an “Originally from ‘’Dorchestah’” burger at Wahlburger’s.

“What the fuck happened?” wrote MÖRAT in a 2015 article “Farewell to the Sunset Strip” on Metal Hammer. He notes that the biggest band playing there these days is Steel Panther.

“Doubtless you’ll see some great bands from time to time, but rarely any truly great shows, rarely a band at their peak, playing the kind of shows that keep you buzzing for weeks afterwards.”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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My Father’s Chair

It was 1984. I worked in a video store in Northfield, New Jersey.

I was back from California. I failed as a musician in Los Angeles. The angel that rose up in Philly in 1979 as a singer, then a guitarist in Wildwood was cast asunder. It was over. I was back in Wildwood. The place I left in 1982 that I never wanted to return to I sadly came home to. I was back living in my parents house. The first of many failures in my short life. Like Icarus who flew too high, my wings melted and I fell back to the Earth.

Making the transition to being back at home with my parents was brutal. I remember at first I was welcome, but in time my father was filled with disdain for me. Why hadn’t I ever written a letter to my mother while I was away? I don’t know. Maybe I was too busy having the time of my life for a few years without any of you. I learned about life, and how to cook and look after myself. All the while struggling with severe anxiety and depression.

My father got me a job in a video store. It was one of his accounts at the bank. He knew the principals of Home Video Centers in Northfield and Vineland. It wasn’t a little mom and pop video store that used to exist back in the 80’s. It was a massive store, with 500 titles on VHS and Beta and all of the other things you needed to have your own home movie experience. (Does anybody remember rear projection big screen TVs? What an abortion of an idea that was.)

I was hired as a salesman. I remember when I got my first business cards. It felt good. But I used the name Chaz, and my father didn’t like that. I should have my proper name on my cards. Now it feels like my father might have been part Asian based on the amount of shame in my life growing up. (No offense to the Asian culture, but it is a patriarchal society, and honor and respect are paramount. Hence, much of their porn, like Germany is all about shame and humiliation) But I digress…

I liked the job and the people I worked with and for. We were all a bunch of young guys and girls working in a relatively new retail industry. We had the massive rental business, but also sold VCRs, TVs and video cameras. When I think about it now, the technology was so heavy and clunky back then. Massive machines that weighed a ton. Video cameras that almost seemed absurd, because of all of the gear you had to carry just to make a video of your family at some outing. When I think of all of the set up my father did a decade before all of that when I was a kid to shoot home movies on 8mm, super 8, and eventually 16mm, it boggles my mind.

Now it’s all in our phones. Not much bigger than a deck of cards in our pocket. You can do all of that and better now. Better technology but the content hasn’t really changed. You can just stream it now.

I remembered I saved up for my own VCR. I wanted to take movies home from work and watch them for free. I loved movies. My father taught me about film as a young lad. He even dabbled in making his own creative films for  awhile when I was a kid. I’ll tell those stories in a future post.

I loved movies, and having grown up in an age where you could only watch what was on TV at a specific time or go to a movie theater. So home video was king to me. Now I could take a movie home and watch it when I wanted.

So I purchased a used, refurbished Sanyo Betamax top loader VCR from my company for about $300 which was a fortune back then. Maybe it was $250 but who knows? But I thought it was cheap for what I got. I didn’t care. I was so happy to bring it home and attach it to my little 13 inch Sony TV in my bedroom and watch all the movies I was dying to see as a kid. They were all mine now! I had the keys to the kingdom.

There were two formats back then. Beta and VHS. Sony invented both formats. But Beta was the better format. Better picture and sound. They kept the superior format for themselves and sold it to who they wanted, mostly other Asian electronics companies. Sanyo, NEC, etc. They sold the VHS format off to I think RCA or Sylvania. I actually have no idea. But what happened was, more companies made the VHS systems. VHS machines were more accessible to the general public and the inferior system actually won as the victor of what people watched movies on. Beta died. It was sad to see the superior format lose to the inferior format. But there is simply strength in numbers. Those sort of statistics hold up today. If you have enough money and guys, you can crush you competitor. I’m sure Sony didn’t really care because they probably made all of their money back on patents. (And now look at them!)

Anyway, my dad would ask me about some of the films we had at the store. (video rentals) He would ask if we had specific films and wondered if I could maybe bring them home and we could watch them together.

I leapt at this idea, because for most of my life with my father things were strained. Here was an opportunity for us to hang out on neutral ground, and do something together that we both loved.

I don’t remember what the first film was that I brought home. Maybe 3 Days of the Condor, Straw Dogs, or Kelly’s Heroes. My dad would give me a list and I would let him know what was on tape. He would always pick them because he had a history of films in his head that surpassed my brief life. He would pick these amazing films that I would never have known about without him even thought of.  I worked in the store with 500 titles but there were so many great films now on tape that had been silent for years. Video tape brought them all back to life. It was an exciting time. The humble beginnings of all access, all the time, that we enjoy today.

Let me tell you what it was like.

I would come home from work at the video store with a film. He had already set up the night we were going to watch it.

Now let me give you the lay of the land here.

We had this giant house at the shore. My dad had this cool space that was his upstairs in the front of the house. This was his man cave long before man caves were a thing. This space worked for him, because he could have his own little world in there.

This is a guy who worked his whole life to build a life for his family. He worked in a bank as a manager, had four kids; three daughters and one son. His wife never worked and was a full time homemaker. Yea, things were different back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. But the man needed his space and he built the shore house to create his own little private space there. In our old house in Philly, the basement was his space.

He loved Christmas so much he would have his own tree up there in the apartment. Yes… he would buy two really good Frazier Fir trees and one would be the family Christmas tree downstairs and he would have his own tree up in his little lair. He even ran a string of mini lights down the hallway. So basically upstairs was always Christmas in our house. Not weird, just his happy thing.

So, I would come home and we’d set up our night. I would set up a little TV snack table next to his television. I would carry my VCR from my bedroom and wire it up to his TV.

Let me describe my dad’s cave. He had a living room. a bedroom with an attached bathroom and a kitchen with ocean views. Amazing space. He even had a Franklin stove in the corner of the living room. I always wondered why he had that, and then one time the power went off during a storm and he tossed some wood in that thing and it heated the whole second floor of the house. Genius.

So, we’ve got everything set up, and I would sit at his kitchen table and chat with him while he cooked a special dinner for the two of us. I would drink a beer and so would he. Normally we both liked light crisp lagers or pilsners. He would give me a little fresh bread to munch on but not too much because you never want to eat to much before dinner, because you never want to spoil your appetite!

The windows would be open and the fragrance from the sea would waft in. The air is just so fresh and cool by the sea. I love living in the city but there is nothing like it.

He would get a head of fresh lettuce and cut it up. Simple. That was the salad. just lettuce. He would mix and make his own Russian dressing. Thousand Island? Is that ketchup and mayo?  Whatever it was… it was delish. I was with my dad having a beer and noshing on french bread and for once… he wasn’t mad at me.

He had bought two fresh Delmonico steaks. Bone in. Apparently if the bone is in, the meat is sweeter and more savory, because the marrow in the bone lends itself to the flavor. There is nothing in the world like an amazing steak. My daughter is vegan and I respect that, but there is nothing on Earth like men ripping into grilled steak and devouring the fired flesh of those who would devour us if we weren’t such killers. Hell bent on being number one on the food chain to the point where we kill so much we are no longer in the food chain… but again, I digress…

He would have these inch and a half thick delicious steaks. He would put them in the broiler in his oven and cook them there. I know before he put them in he did something with some secret seasoning that include garlic and some other potions not revealed to me. While the steaks were cooking, and it didn’t take long, I would go quiet. I don’t like anyone talking to me when I’m cooking, so I knew my father needed silence to make his food art for us.

Halfway through, he would slide out the tray, and reach for two shots of Remy Martin cognac he had sitting on the counter. He would douse both steaks with a flash of brandy, and they would both ignite in flames as he pushed them back into the broiler. He told me that this would sear in the juices and glaze the outside or something. (It worked!)

I always wanted this part to go on longer than it ever did. I liked sitting peacefully in my father’s kitchen just chatting with him. We talked about everything. Work, life, music, films, girls, everything. Whatever was going on in the moment we would cover. But as some of you know, when it comes to steak, your window for chatter before dinner is always fleeting.

We would sit at his table and eat the steaks and the little brown bowls of salad. He said that we shouldn’t have a potato because he wanted the focus of the meal to be on the meat. He was completely right. They were some of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten. They were cooked to perfection, and I loved every bite. He always served an amazing cabernet with every meal. But more than that, my father and I were sharing one of the oldest rituals in history.

We’d put on some cool classical dinner music. My dad was a master of classical music and opera. He owned so much of that and loved it so much. I think he heard his own passion, pain and triumph in that music.

A father and son breaking bread together. Like in times of old, the father sharing the day’s kill with his only son. He would tell me stories that were only for me. Tales that were only for men. Things and deeds that my sisters or my mother could never hear.

I felt so close to him then.

After dinner, we would retire to the living room. I would fire up the Sanyo top loader and the film would begin. I’d make whatever adjustments were necessary so that the film would play properly, and off we’d go. (Does anybody remember tracking?)

For the next two hours we’d disappear together into the film. A world we could both control. Two completely different guys that somehow got thrown together in this life, and we got along. We found our thing.

He had a really nice padded wooden rocking chair in the room. He liked to sit in a hard chair as he called it, because it felt better on his back. So, I got to sit in his comfy rocking chair to watch the movie with him. I loved it!

There were times we’d both feel so much emotion that we’d both tear up a little bit during a movie. Terms of Endearment worked on both of our hearts! There were times he would reach over and grab my hand as we both felt the pain of the characters in the film. It meant so much to me that I was this connected to my father in this moment. Brought together by a film we both loved. I know whatever was happening on the screen was a feeling we had both felt in our own lives.  Even though we were sometimes worlds apart, we connected in that moment.

After the wine, we would  dabble in a bit of the cognac, and he would offer me a bit of bittersweet chocolate from Rauhauser’s Candies in Ocean City. It was the best damn candy in the world. The butter cremes were like kissing the face of god.

I remember during Straw Dogs one night I thought the snifter of cognac would burst in my hand from the suspense. My dad could really pick the films that rocked!

My father said that those were some of his fondest memories of me. He said for a brief time when I was between women in my life we spent some wonderful, simple times together.

I think maybe at some point my dad realized I was really different than him. I was more like his wife and her side of the family. I know I disappointed my father so many times. I’ll never know what it was like for him to grow up in the world he was born into. A world he never made, or could control. I can’t imagine the grinding frustration of his life with so much responsibility, all in the name of maybe finding peace of mind. That, and trying to build a family the only way he knew how from the ashes of his own fractured childhood.

 

At the end of his life, I convinced him to let me set up a Netflix account for him. There were so many films I wanted to share with him. After some reservations, he finally let me. We had a few years there where he let me to pick all of the movies and shows for him to watch.

So I guess it went full circle.

I’m grateful for all of our conversations about all of those great movies.

I think my dad found peace of mind eventually when he settled things with my mom and they both got along.  But I know once she was gone he lost some of himself.

I’ve been thinking about him lately, and felt compelled to write this.

I like when my dad occasionally taps on the window of my mind and asks me to let him in. He’s always welcome.

 

Thanks for letting me sit in your chair, Dad.

 

 

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