Wednesday, January 21, 2015

1979: Apocalypse Not Exactly Now, But As Soon as the Print Can Be Located at the Airport

The dawning of 1979 felt somehow like a relief. I don’t know what it is about years with an 8 at the end, but I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed one, whereas a 9 at the end always brings new hope.

What some smart young thing in a record company publicity department had dubbed New Wave (presumably because punk scared away the pusillanimous) was all the rage. You could always tell a New Wave video because the musicians, aping Elvis Costello, would glare at the camera as though it had just stolen their girlfriends. Even cuddly Rick Springfield seemed to seethe!

I conquered my shyness in the late spring, marching bold as you please up to a beautiful young blonde in Century City and assertubg that we needed to become acquainted. A guy way down in Orange County who wrongly imagined that I still had the ability to make or break stars said he’d get me recording time at one of his own acolytes' little 8-track studio if I’d make him a star. I kept from guffawing and said I’d do my best. I'd been reduced to feeling lucky to get an occasional record review in the LA Times Sunday arts magazine, and sometimes when I did get one in, it was emasculated, as when Robert Hilburn, the world’s nicest guy, and a perfectly awful music critic, forbade me to describe Jefferson Starship’s Paul Kantner as the worst songwriter in rock, though I couldn’t see how any reasonable person could have believed otherwise. I got to review a documentary movie about my formerly beloved Who, and in so doing attracted a London-based PR company intent on getting The Press over — at their expense! — to San Sebastián, Spain, for that city’s apparently annual international film festival.

Pound for pound, I think it might have been the most consistently enjoyable 10 days of my life. The PR company put me up in the city’s best hotel and gave me a book of coupons redeemable for meals at its best restaurants, and oh, can the Spanish cook! There were loads (as they themselves would have said) of Brits around, and they all seemed to like me, especially after I got in a wee exchange of wry deprecations one night with the odious Robin Leach of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous fame. Robin was in way over his head. I sat at dinner one night beside a famous English actress who asked, “Anyone mind if I smoke?” I said I did. She did anyway. I even got laid, by one of the charmed Brits. A small mob of them staggered drunkenly out of the hotel restaurant one night to giggle drunkenly at the sight of me running along the gorgeous crescent-shaped bay in my ludicrous huge Radio Shack radio headphones. The local DJ played “My Sharona,” from which I’d hoped to escape.

Life on one of the less glamorous streets of West Hollywood didn’t seem so exciting when I got home. I wrote a wry article, “Apocalypse Not Exactly Now, But As Soon as the Print Can Be Located at the Airport,” about my adventures pretending at an international film festival to be a film critic. Playboy pronounced it a shaggy dog story and declined to publish it, as did every other English-language magazine on earth, and there went my hopes of attending the 1980 festival. Robin Leach and the inconsiderate nicotine-addict sexpot would have to carry on without me.

I went to a little get-together at which the actor and former glam heartthrob Michael des Barres looked askance at my long hair. Shamed, I soon got it snipped, but not before having worn flared trousers in London in 1979, and imagined that I looked like a semitic Travlota, but without his lovely blue eyes.


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