please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"...I'm gonna live for-ev-er!"

I see here that I considered shaking the hand of Dick Van Dyke to be a thing worth noting, once. I suppose that I still do, just because it's strange. It far outweighs meeting, say, Jerry Lewis, who now has seen to it that I shall never, ever get the phrase "Jesse the illiterate faggot" out of my head.
Dick was in town to be the keynote speaker at the 1984 Oregon Democratic Convention, and he achieved this largely by delivering a string of unfunny jokes about his son's own (senate?) race in California. Later, I shook his hand, marveling at the tremendous amount of pancake makeup the man wore. End of story.

See? The problem with the brushes-with-greatness are that they tend to be unlovely in content, and more often than not involve famous people I don't actually want to meet. "Meeting" Edie Brickell, for instance.
Which is to say, being on mushrooms in a bookstore in the late Eighties and noticing a very tall, beautiful woman looming directly to my left. (She must tower over poor Paul Simon.) I recognized her, as she was going to be playing a show in town that evening, and several of the girls around school were certainly psyched for it.

I got Pete Miser's attention, and said, "Hey, look over there."
"Hm," he said, "isn't that..."
"Yeah...It's kind of a shame, isn't it?"
"I know..."
"That neither of us likes her, that is."

Or the time I met Elaine Miles. Who? Well...
It's We Loves Us Some Injuns week (or Native American Appreciation something Week), and I have been left in charge of all things Audio and/or Visual in the lecture hall of the museum where I was employed. The guys from the audio equipment company come and drop off their shit, and inform me that there will be no lecture, but could I still sit here and babysit their equipment? They'd be willing to pay me hourly...
Certainly, says I, contemplating the wonder of receiving dual paychecks. So, I'm sitting in this empty auditorium when who walks in but...The Lady Who Played 'Marilyn' on "Northern Exposure"!

"Hi, I'm Elaine," she said, in that same way she talked on the show; with a little verbal shrug of the shoulders after every line. As if to say, I'm just sayin' what I'm sayin', y'know... This was the trademark of her and every other stereotyped small-town-Buddha-like-Native on the show, causing my pal Vlad once to observe, "Oh I see...It's a show about a small town in Alaska where everyone is an idiot savant."

It would seem that everyone knew that the lecture was cancelled except for the lecturer herself. This made me sad, and it probably didn't do her self esteem any wonders, and now I was not only babysitting an empty lecture hall and someone else's AV equipment, but also An Abandoned D-list Star.
She was really nice. She's Cayuse, which means she's actually from the same part of the Northwest as I am. We sat and chatted about whatever came into our heads until she finally wandered away, first autographing a head shot of herself. That was a pretty sizable box full of those damn things that she was lugging around that day: I imagine her walking up to people amongst the fry bread booths outside, saying, 'hey, i'm elaine' in that tiny voice, pointing to her enormous box of pictures of herself. Not that I'd ask or anything, but maybe you'd like an autographed picture of me, Elaine Miles? (shrugs).

It's too damn sad. As a child, I often dreamed of the glamour that lies behind the scenes. I wished like hell I could get backstage, where all the action is, you know. Now, by dint of my profession, I'm backstage all the time, and indeed, there would be no 'stage' to be back behind without me.
And I gotta tell you; every famous person I've met has somehow managed to be one that I had no real desire to meet. In the case of those that I did want to meet, they are no one especially famous (smoking pot with the members of Freakwater springs to mind here, as does having a hotel room next to Robyn Hitchcock, and stealing his tequila).

The high school I went to was filled with the children of the rich, and so therefore a number of minor celebs emitted from there. Lisa 'Kennedy' Montgomery easily being the most famous. She who made it cool to feign masturbation during Rudy Giuliani speeches, and remind us all that the Alternative Nation was, at heart, childishly reactionary. Lucky us.
I'm reading Events Leading Up To My Death, by Howard K. Smith, perhaps the greatest title for an autobiography I've ever heard. He noted right up front that he is from the same small town that produced Jimmy Swaggart, Mickey Gilley and Jerry Lee Lewis. He then goes on to note that, to his knowledge, outside of geographic similarity, he notes no real connection between these men.
Odd for a journalist to have missed the fact that Lewis and Swaggart are cousins, and that all three men are musicians. I dunno. I'm just waiting to see if he explains to me just what exactly Andy Rooney did for all the years between 1945 and 1980 at CBS. I look forward to it.

Portland is actually a very easy town for casual celebrity spotting. We also like to act like we don't know who you are around here, as we figure that is probably how you would like to be treated. This has led to me having no idea that I was talking to Todd Haynes at a party once, doing my damnedest to act like the guitar case I'm carrying for the six-foot-almost-seven man next to me doesn't belong to Krist Novoselic, and so on.
One of the better applications of this follows. Janet Weiss has lived here for years, long before she joined Sleater-Kinney. So spotting her out playing pool or having breakfast has never been a difficult thing.
One evening, my housemate and I were out on the town, and ran into a couple friends, who were then joined by Janet and date. We were introduced to this person we already knew from countless album covers and live concerts by her name, as if she were any old person, which she is.

My housemate was a huge Sleater-Kinney fan, and I love Quasi. I even sort of consider her drumming style to be an influence on my own. But is this what we talked about?
No: I told her where I worked, and how I'd actually served her (and Elliot Smith) breakfast on several occasions. We also discussed the friends I already knew we had in common. A good time was had, and my housemate whispered to me later:
"We oughta keep calling her 'Debbie' or 'Karen' or something, as if we really don't know..."

And people who I wouldn't have minded meeting, like Jorma Kaukonen, both as a member of two of my favorite bands (Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, you guys) and as a good Suomolina boika like myself. He arrived with band in tow, at the Crystal Bathroom when I worked there as a box office droid, but preceded, at all times, by his manager, Irv.
Irv has all the Middle-aged Jewish dude bling on. Gold mogen David...A fucking gold dollar sign necklace, for Maimonides sake! They seemed a bit put out by the fact that there was no one available to schlep their equipment anywhere, this being Noon, a good four hours before the production boys would arrive.

"Well, you can unload your stuff if you want, and just leave it here. I'll keep an eye on it; it'll be safe," I said.
"No," said Irv, "I don't think we'll be unloading shit. We'll let you guys do that."
Oh, right. This wasn't some indie band where the roadies are your girlfriends and drinking buddies. This was a certified legend, of sorts. I told them where they could go get some lunch.

Best of all, I bootlegged the show that evening. Irv did the intro:
"Hel-lo Poat-lin! Ballroom...Crystal Ballroom it is!" And, once he figured out where he was, he pointed out how fortunate we all were to be seeing his meal ticket.

The point is (there was a point?), now I live backstage, and am underwhelmed as always. After spending that week at Nike last December, the things I learned included what a 'waffle package' was, and how 'leather opportunities' might be possible ("who wouldn't want one of those?" my fellow AV guy asked) in a shoe; what the 'design story' was...On a shoe! And how certainly, certainly putting all their marketing and promotional might behind a Michael Vick shoe was a fantastic idea.
But even more so; how much money entities like that have, and how they enjoy throwing it around. How flying all of their sales reps in to Portland for a stupid fucking fashion show seems like a fine idea, even necessary to the basic functioning of a corporation that could probably run itself. And probably paying for air fare, hotel accomodations, limos, meals and booze for several hundred people (plus paying people like me handsomely) all falls into deductions under 'business expenses' for an entity such as Nike. Certainly.

And that's the thing: "To do well what should not be done at all," as Gore Vidal would have it. Over these last four days, I've spent two at Nike, plus a couple more setting up/loading out Justin Timberlake and Beyonce. What I do is, as anyone who's ever bitched about the nature of unions has pointed out, something anyone could do. Tightening screws, for instance. I tighten a lot of screws on a lot of bolts that hold together the truss that several thousand pounds of lights and speakers are attached to, shortly before I attach the span sets (elastic bands with shackles on them) to the chain motors, and the whole thing levitates fifty or so feet in the air.
Now, yes, anyone could do what I do, at basic. Anyone could wait tables, too, it is often said. As a person who has done both, I have to ask, Yes, but wouldn't you rather have someone who knows what they're doing?
Sometimes I look up at all that steel hanging over all our heads, and I think, my concern here is not that these people have the opportunity to see Good Charlotte so much as it is that people don't die here this evening, during this pointless event.

Which reminds me: the lead singer of Good Charlotte, who opened for JT, is dating Nicole Richie. I saw her. Being a coked out little whore who happens to be pregnant really agrees with her. As I say pretty much anytime I watch VH1, "Even if you got together with someone with that kind of wealth, she's a jungle of diseases from so many years of acting out, and her mansion is still located in Los fucking Angeles!"

That's pretty much it, though still only tip o' de iceberg. Probably more to come. Tonight: Muse, with Juliette Lewis and The Licks opening. They tell me that Juliette, like her spiritual sisters Lili Taylor and Parker Posey, isn't acting at all. She continues to be typecast as crazy, stupid women because she...
I dunno. Oh, I'll just die if I don't get to briefly look at her, as I am doing this thing that I do.



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