Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Crybabies Room

All these technological breakthroughs! Blu-Ray! 3D! 4G! Duane Eddy’s “40 Miles of Bad Road”! But what does it get you in the end? I have been a guest in the homes of wealthy audiophiles, and privileged to hear some remarkable stereo systems, but I'm quite sure I will go my grave never having enjoyed the sound of music more than on the monophonic radio in my pal Dave’s ’58 Chevy, in we which drove around and around and around during Christmas vacation in our senior year of high school, listening to the best music in the world — the Righteous Bros’ “Lovin’ Feelin”, The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”, The Supremes’ “Come See About Me”, The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”, The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” — while looking for girls (and secretly hoping we wouldn’t find any, as we were too shy to speak to the stuck-up bitches.)

I look forward to watching the forthcoming Super Bowl on a high-definition TV with more square footage than some hotel rooms I’ve stayed in, but have no expectation of enjoying it more than I did the first Super Bowl — the Ice Bowl!— which I watched on a 19-inch black and white TV. I saw Avatar in 3D a few weeks ago, and actually enjoyed it considerably less than I remember enjoying Disney’s Johnny Tremain at the Loyola Theater in the Westchester district of Los Angeles when I was 10.

God, the Loyola, with its 60-foot high neon swan outside, and its glorious Art Deco lobby, and its million square yards of red velvet in the auditorium, in which you were shown to your seat by a uniformed usher with a flashlight! The Loyola, joy of man’s desiring, with its magic show between halves of a double feature! They had what I think was called a crybabies room, soundproofed to muffle the tantrums of ill-behaved kiddies, but teenaged smart alecs had made it entirely their own by the time of my earliest visits. A modern multiplex would be doing well to inspire a thousandth the sense of occasion a place like the Loyola did, and the whole culture is the poorer for it. Keep your digital projection and 3D. Give me red velvet and Art Deco.

Speaking of snide teens shouting what they fancied to be witticisms to the characters on screen from the safety of the Loyola’s crybaby room, a free autographed copy of my life-changing latest album Sorry We’re Open to anyone who can explain why black movie audiences talk back to the actors on screen and white ones don’t?

And while we’re at it, why do black music lovers generally like a lot more bass than whites? I can only guess it’s because the lower frequencies are more ominously masculine, more evocative of natural disasters, that hip hop fan motorists turn up the bass in their lowered ’61 Chevies so high as to threaten the windows of every home or commercial establishment past which they drive. Arriving home from grocery shopping after being stopped at a traffic signal beside one of these characters, I’ve found cracked half of the dozen eggs with which I’d conspired to make a delicious omelette. One of these times, I won’t be surprised if one of my fillings is loosened.

In other entertainment-related news, one of this blog’s devoted fans was kind enough to send me for Xmas the Best of the Dean Martin Show boxed set of DVDs, which turns out to contain some wonderful surprises, my favorite being the show in which Dino’s guests included the beat authors Wm. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, and Ginsberg’s lover Peter Orlovsky. In sketches based on Ginsberg’s poem Howl and and Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch, Ginsberg and Orlovsky show themselves to be good sports, real troupers, but Burroughs is self-conscious and wooden. When Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara makes a surprise appearance, entering from a closet in one scene, Ginsberg is taken aback at first, but plays along, while Orlovsky, presumably offended by McNamara’s role in the escalation of the war in Viet Nam, storms off stage. It isn’t entirely clear if Burroughs even recognizes McNamara, though Bob's defiantly retro center-parted hair and wire-rim spectacles had become nearly iconic by that time. Later in the show, singing "Danny Boy" with his host, Burroughs reveals himself to have had a gorgeous clear tenor and deft way with a musical phrase. Highly recommended!

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