Where All Men Are United in the Love of Chicken-N-Waffle

Eddie outside Roscoe'sRoscoe’s the name
and they call me the king,
grandmaster of the chicken
and the waffle thing.
I said read my lips and, friends,
don’t miss a word
‘Cause the grandmaster’s gonna
give you the bird!

Eddie and MattWhen I first saw Tapeheads, I nearly hemorrhaged from laughing during
the commercial spot that the two main characters did for Roscoe’s House
of Chicken-N-Waffles. I thought the idea was so crazy, so inane. It was
a stroke of brilliance on the part of the screenwriter.

Boy howdy, was I amazed when I found out that Roscoe’s really exists. Actually,
there are three of them scattered throughout the greater L.A. area. When
I found out that I was going to be in L.A., I knew that if nothing else,
I had to make a holy pilgrimage to this soaring tribute to entrepreneurial

Roscoe’s is mostly a soul food restaurant, with big hearty meals at good
prices. Despite a tantalizing assortment, I knew I had to have the #20 —
the "Carolina" chicken plate with a buttermilk waffle on the side.
This was some good eatin’s — the creamiest butter, the thickest syrup,
the tenderest chicken breast. If you have chicken and waffle, trust me:
you really have to eat both at the same time. The combo sounds scary, but
it’s truly delightful — hot, sweet, and rich.

This place is no secret, either. We showed up right before the rush, apparently.
When we left, totally satiated and deliriously happy, there was a huge line
down the street. Obviously, California cuisine can also mean biscuits, gravy,
grits, and — without a doubt — chicken-n-waffle.

The Yin/Yang Karma Wheel of Self-Love

By David Melito

When contemplating the search for the elusive perfect love, I feel the need
to borrow a phrase from the Diet Coke Diva herself — "Learning to
love yourself is the greatest love of all." It’s true, Whitney: the
greatest love of all is easy to achieve; all it takes is self-confidence.
But how do we become self-confident? Can it really be achieved alone? that’s
not as easy an answer. You see, Whitney, there are two types of people:
those who grew up with a sense of well-being and security, and people like
me. We are the Painfully Insecure People (PIP) of the world. What does this
have to do with the search for the elusive perfect love? Stick around: it
will all make sense.

The PIP’s Karmic dilemma:

Axiom A: You can’t love another till you love yourself.

Axiom B: You’re nobody till somebody loves you.

You see . . . you can’t get to B without first attaining A, yet it’s pretty
damn difficult to attain A without getting to B.

Before we continue, let me assure you that there are many advantages to
being a PIP. As a PIP it is your goal in life to get people to like you.
By the time PIPs are in their twenties, they’ve either learned how to get
people to like them or they have killed themselves (or they have a talk
show where they are addressed by an iconic first name such as Maury or Geraldo;
but I digress). We, the PIPs, are generally the funny people at parties.
PIPs were the class clowns that you found most entertaining at lunch during
high school. We take risks in order to get attention. We are the Liza Minellis,
Divines, John Candys, Steve Spielbergs, Rush Limbaughs, and Sam Kinisons
of the world. Some PIPs tell vulgar jokes, some spew right-wing politics,
some sing showtunes — we come from all different walks of life. However,
PIPS all share one primary objective. We broadcast the two following vibes
24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

I. Look at me.

II. Love every single thing I do!

PIPS will do anything to get attention, including telling everyone how painfully
insecure they are (hence this article . . . you are enjoying it aren’t you?).
There is hope for PIPS: PIPS can slowly overcome their fears and learn to
love themselves but it usually takes years and millions of adoring fans.
Barbara Walters’ specials are chock-full of reforming PIPS. The typical
PIP interview generally has three parts:

1. How bad things used to be.

2. A good cry with Babs.

3. How he/she conquered all and made it.

(Note: Part 2 can take place at any time.)

Of course, the most famous PIP speech of them all is the one Sally Field
gave at the Academy Awards, crying, "You like me — you really like me."

And the point is . . .

By now you’re asking yourself, "Where is all this going?" Well,
let’s look at The Karma Wheel. The Yin/Yang Karma Wheel clearly shows that
we slowly start to love ourselves only while others slowly give us praise
and affection. The PIP has a problem: in order to obtain a successful relationship,
the PIP must learn to love him/herself (see Axiom A); however, in order
to do this he/she needs love from others. If two PIPs are to fall in love
they must not only have lots of things in common and be attracted to each
other, but their Karma Wheels (Cupid’s biorhythms, if you will) must be
in sync. Since this is seldom the case, the PIP’s quest for companionship
typically generates a 15-step cycle of self-love/self-hate. Let’s see if
these patterns mirror your life . . .

The scenario: You’ve just asked Johnny on a date. He says no. You’re
crushed. You cry, "What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t anyone love me?"

"It must be my [check all that apply]  arms  stomach  personality  video tape collection  other________________."

This has happened before. You knew Johnny wouldn’t be interested because
you projected a negative attitude. Did you really think it would work out
if you were looking so hard?

"The Wheel"

Step 1: Stop looking so hard.

It is a common belief that if you stop looking for love it will come and
find you. This of course is as easy as trying to forget your name. You can’t
do it. The PIP pretends he/she isn’t looking. But secretly in the dark,
repressed corners of the PIP’s mind he/she knows that every single person
they meet is a potential Mr./Ms. right.

Step 2:

a. Give up trying to pretend. You are on the prowl.

b. Accept the fact that no one will love you until you love yourself.

c. Try to love yourself.

Step 3: Use the following argument in order to fail:

No one else loves you. How
can six billion people be wrong? If you thought you were a potato and six
billion people thought you weren’t, you’d seek counseling right? Of course

Step 4: Get really down on yourself, but pretend to hate the world.

This is a good time to get drunk and talk to people who have rejected you.
Try calling them up to ask such questions as, "What’s wrong with me?"
At first people will resist, but eventually, with enough persistence, you’ll
get answers and boy do they hurt! Wallow in it.

Step 5: Now transfer your hate toward yourself to the world.

This is called "getting bitter." Art students are notoriously
good at this. It is at this stage that you should probably start smoking
again. Hang out in coffee shops. Don’t talk to anyone. When you do have
conversations, always make sarcastic comments about how alone you are. If
the person who has most recently rejected you is present, even better.

Step 6:

a. Once you hate the world (God too, if you can swing it), watch a little
bit of television and come to the conclusion that each and every one of
the six billion people who live on the planet are assholes.

b. Decide that you are actually O.K.

Step 7: No, you’re great! Fabulous! Top of the hill!

Accomplish something. Write a novel. Make a movie. Organize your videotape
collection. This is the time to start putting together that stand-up comedy
act you’ve always wanted to do. Show the world your stuff!


Listen to Whitney Houston songs. Smile at children. You don’t need anyone
’cause you have you. In essence, you are repeating Step 1, only with much
more vigor. You have truly fooled yourself into believing that you are not
looking. Now, and only now, are you ready to get your heart broken.

Step 9: First meet someone who you think is different from all the rest (see next
step if you think this is tricky).

Step 10: If said person is not different from all the rest, simply convince yourself
that he/she is
(the longer it’s been since you last had sex, the easier
this part is).

Step 11: Obsess about the person — it’s fun.

Call all of your friends and tell them
about him/her. There are virtually thousands of ways to obsess — too many
to include in a short article. I am currently writing a Time-Life
series on the subject — look for it on "Amazing Discoveries"
next month. Just remember to be creative, have fun, and try not to harm
any animals.

Step 12 — CRUCIAL STEP: When it is painfully obvious that the person is not interested, humiliate
yourself by making them say it to your face.

Don’t let them off easy, don’t pick up on their body language. Ignore their
subtle hints (such as if they say, "I am not looking for a relationship,"
then propose). MAKE THEM HURT YOU! Then they’ll be sorry . . . yessir-ree-bob.They’ll
embarrass you so terribly that they will be sure to feel ashamed for hours!

Step 13: Try and hate that person.

Of course you can’t. Just a few days ago you were in love and completely
obsessed. You’ve already picked out china patterns and the site for your
commitment ceremony. You can’t hate him/her; you need to hate the one thing
that is keeping the two of you from being together, which is of course none
other than yourself! (Move on to Step 14, don’t pass Go, etc. . . . )

Step14: Transfer the hate onto yourself.

Remember that the higher you build up your self-esteem in Step 8, the more
atrociously insane you are allowed to act. Sit in front of the mirror and
scream. Pretend you are on an episode of "The Donna Reed Show":
lie on your bed, clutch your pillow, and yell aloud, "Dear God, I may
not be the prettiest girl in the world, but don’t I deserve some happiness?"
Listen to the silence. Take it as a No.

Break something that symbolizes your accomplishments: burn your Pulitzer
Prize­p;winning book; smash your Academy Award. Now is the time when
many people decide to move on to substance abuse (people like Liza Minelli
and Elton John).

Step 15: Return to step 1.

If we could scientifically prove that PIPS are bound to The Wheel, then
we would be content to live out our rotten, miserable, stinking lives quietly
understanding that we will be forever alone. However, PIPs can get out of
their rut, seemingly overnight — and that, folks, is the pisser! You never
know when the hand of fate will gracefully lift you off The Wheel.

I have come to the conclusion that we all travel The Karma Wheel at varying
rates but all at the same time. Remember, while you are riding along and
lusting after person X and person X is breaking your heart — remember that
person Y is probably thinking you are his/her person X. As a longtime PIP
I have seen many of my fellow PIPs move on to successful relationships.
This has been both encouraging and irritating. While it means that the quest
is not futile, the overwhelming question still remains: "Goddammit,

I am going to be a damn fine guest on a Barbara Walters special.


Media junkie that I am, I naturally checked out a lot of stuff while
I was in L.A. In the interest of passing on useful information, here are
brief reviews of movies, music, and zines that came my way during my vacation.
If you’re one of those people who reads reviews to be up-to-the-minute,
move along. These will all be hopelessly out of date by the time you read

Forever Young
Directed by Steve Miner, 1991

I came into this movie late, since it was on television when I was trapped
in a Minneapolis motel room, but I think I got a pretty good sense of it.

This is the movie where Mel Gibson is a test pilot who was frozen back in
the thirties and then defrosted by two kooky kids in the nineties. Basically,
this is entertainment-lite. Not a fantastic flick, but soothingly bland.
There are vast gaps in logic and plot scattered throughout, but Mel looks
good, Jamie Lee Curtis gets to look concerned a lot, the young Elijah Wood
gets to show that he’s a pretty good actor for a little kid (I don’t think
that little kids have to prove their acting talent by faking cancer or anything
melodramatic; I’m won over by believability), and the job is utterly mild
overall. Beware, though: if you can’t stand saccharine, heartwarming endings,
stay away! You’ll blow all over the screen.

The Good Son
Directed by Joseph Rubin, 1993

Elijah Wood pops up again, if just to prove that Macauley Culkin is a gimmick,
not an actor. This cinematic atrocity was forced upon me during a five-hour
airplane flight, so I won’t take responsibility for choosing it.

This is a turkey. It uses every goofy cinematic gimmick to build predictable
suspense and dull, anticlimactic action sequences. The only shining moment
is watching Mac plunge to his death, dropped from a high, rocky ledge by
his mother, who realizes that Elijah Wood would be a lot less hassle to
have around the house.

Directed by Michael Apted, 1994

I caught this at a cast-and-crew screening, so there was a lot of excitement
in the audience, since everyone there had their messy little hands all over
it at one point or another. These people were applauding during the credits,
if that puts it in perspective.

This flick is worth seeing, though. The lovely Madeleine Stowe plays a violinist
in an Irish rock band, blinded as a child by her loopy mother. After getting
a cornea transplant to restore her vision, she sees a serial killer leaving
the scene of a murder upstairs from her, but doesn’t realize it, since her
eyes are still adapting to being able to see again.

The thing is, she has a rare condition where her brain processes information
long after her eyes see things, so she keeps seeing this killer, and other
wacky things, at totally random times. She’s the only eyewitness, though,
which forces misogynist, abrasive detective Aidan Quinn (looking a little
puffy and over-the-hill, but still okay), who once mooned her in a bar when
she was still blind, to stick around her until they catch the guy.

I know this sounds like a hokey premise, and I guess it is, but it works.
The optical effects are really nice, and the suspense is nicely crafted,
with a few good twists near the end. All in all, my only complaint is that
once again, a blind woman in the movies has impeccable taste in trendy clothes,
skillfully applied makeup, and a fabulous apartment.

Directed by Jonathan Demme, 1993

This is not the definitive AIDS movie, nor do I think it’s trying to be,
despite the assumptions of its detractors. This strikes me as more of a
portrait of the way different people react to AIDS, whether they are understanding
and supportive of PWAs, terrified of the threat of the disease, or well-meaning
but thoroughly homophobic.

The cinematography in this one deserves a note, since it seems a little
affected and overdone at first, but eventually it drives the point home
with incredible impact. This is an actor’s movie all the way, relying on
clear, direct performances with more emotion and reaction captured by the
camera, rather than on witty or powerful dialogue. Two thumbs up for Tom
and Denzel, and almost all members of the stellar cast, except for David
Drake, who just couldn’t grasp the need to underplay his minor role for
maximum effect. He makes Doug Savant, the master of the sympathetic reaction
shot on Melrose Place, look like a stoneface.

This movie really shook me up, largely because it doesn’t provide pat plot
resolutions. Instead it forces the viewer to grapple with the issues it
leaves open. My initial reaction to the movie was to bawl my eyes out as
it reached its conclusion, but later, feeling a little clearer as my pal
Ed and I picked apart what the movie seemed to say, I was able to articulate
why it had affected me so much. Even though the battle lines and allegiances
are very clearly presented from the outset of the film, everyone in it makes
a case that someone could probably understand. As a workaholic gay man with
a straight HIV+ brother, I definitely was pissed off by the attitudes of
Jason Robards’ paranoid old-boys’ legal club, but I have to admit that they
might not have been truly guilty of the crime with which they are charged.
Denzel Washington’s unresolved homophobia seemed terribly small-minded,
but you can see where it makes sense in the context of the film. Ed’s politics
pretty much agreed with mine, though homophobic persecution and AIDS panic
don’t hit as close to home for him, and he also saw the ambiguity that ran
rampant through the film. This could play in Peoria and get reactions drastically
different from ours.

Any and all politics aside, this is a fine film, riveting and emotional
without being too manipulative.

Spencer the Gardener
At Club Lingerie

Spencer the Gardener is a band from Santa Barbara who do a nutty mix of
pop, country, and Latin music for the sake of fun, fun, fun. Every song
they performed was pretty jumpy and accessible, either lyrically or at least
musically, depending on whether it was an English funk/pop tune or a salsa
two-step. Ed claimed they were a lot like Chucklehead since they had a horn
section, but aside from their devotion to fun, Spencer’s sound is definitely
their own. My only criticism would be for Nate, their moody trumpet player:
get a little spunk, man!

Ben Is Dead
Summer 1993, "Modern Transmission & Sensory Overload."
Published and edited by Darby Romeo. Letters to: Ben Is Dead, P.O. Box 3166,
Hollywood, CA 90028.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Ben Is Dead as I’ve gotten deeper into
the zine world, but I’d never stopped to pick up a copy until I grabbed
this issue from a sleazy newsstand somewhere in L.A.

Unfortunately, the people behind BID are more famous for their I
Hate Brenda
Newsletter. The tragedy of this is that BID is a
fantastic effort in its own right. The writing is both extremely intelligent
and laid-back witty. Darby and her assistant editors Kerin Morataya and
Michael Carr (aka Kitty Lu Kemia) have a lot of fierce attitude about what
they think and what they like, yet are still willing to explore and to flesh
out new ideas.

This particular issue features scientific explanations of the human senses,
a bawdy interview with Duran Duran, an exposé of The Jane Pratt Show,
a discussion of the limits of copyright law, and interviews with the publishers
of bOING!, bOING!, Future Sex, and Mondo 2000, among lots
of other goodies.

BID has a very slick four-color printed cover and decent web printing,
although the design and layout is a little Mac-happy. Luckily, they have
the budget for actual photographs and some neat computer graphics, so the
overall look is pretty good. Even if you’re a design snob like me, though,
you should get this publication. These people really kick some serious butt!

Vol. 2, No. 1, "Birthday/Holiday Issue."
Published and edited by NB. Letters to: TeenMom, 2211 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
#306, Los Angeles, CA 90068.

This is one nutty zine. Factsheet Five places TeenMom in its
queer section, but I don’t know if that’s really appropriate. Granted, the
editorial tone vacillates between gay camp and fun-loving feminist satire,
but even if it is a covert fag rag, it’s very limiting to look at this as
a queer zine.

TeenMom is a very wacky parody of teen heartthrob magazines, with
a lot of black humor, pop culture awareness, and photos of beefy guys. The
hook is that it’s supposedly written from the point of view of giddy adolescent
moms. This particular issue features tips on grooming your offspring for
teen stardom, choosing the genetically right TeenDad, a suspicious "interview"
with Juliette Lewis, and TeenMom’s Turkey Baster Award to Antonio Sabato,
Jr., for being the year’s biggest stud with the most promising sperm.

I am also quite fond of their clip/found art illustrations and their color
laser copy cover. It’s a low-budget job that uses the means at its disposal
quite well.

Vol. 1, No. 1
Published and edited by Matt Patterson,
Ed Schmidt, and Joe Wagner. Letters
to: Ooze, 1553A Baxter St., Los Angeles, CA 90026.

Ooze is a smart, subversive humor mag put out by three lunatics I know in
L.A. This is an outgrowth of similar publications the guys made at Vassar,
and in high school before that. The jokes in Ooze are rife with pop culture
sensibility and a disdain for the editors’ mainstream suburban upbringing.
It’s a little bit April Fool’s Day and a little bit "Kids in the Hall."
It’s a little bit country, and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.

The first issue features a games page, suggestions for alternative prom
themes, medical advice for the lovelorn, and a treatise on the merits of
acting stupid.

The design right now is fun, with lots of clip art and Photoshop experiments.
They also do an electronic version with sound available via Internet (at
drbubonic@aol.com). These guys are
hoping their alma mater will give them a grant which will allow them to
do a slicker job with Ooze. But even without the extra dough, it’s
definitely worth a peek.

No Duh
Published and edited by Geoff F.
Letters to: No Duh, P.O. Box 921, Allston, MA 02134

It figures that I would have to travel all the way to California to discover
this nifty little zine published right here in Boston, more specifically
in my old neighborhood, Allston — the B.U. student ghetto and the zip of

The editorial content of No Duh is fairly standard alterna-teen personal
experience and travelogue with articles about Providence, cheap beer, Seattle,
and historical zines. Don’t get me wrong — I really like the writing in this.
It’s pretty smart, very honest and anecdotal, and definitely entertaining.

The real kicker, though, is the look of No Duh. I bought it for its
packaging alone, a plain gray paper cover with a scooter illustration, all
sealed in a clear plastic bag with a tiny sticker describing the contents.
Very minimal and stylish. I was glad to see that the insides didn’t let
me down. Although the design isn’t really sophisticated, Geoff draws from
an apparently encyclopedic collection of mod-era advertising art, thirties
clip art, and old sundry ads and visuals for a really witty, fun-lovin’
package. Even handwritten pieces, of which I am usually very wary, are used
to good effect here. Kudos!

While tooling around, I also got lots of old records and whatnot, which
I’ll just list for the sake of brevity:

  • Brazilian Festival by Miguelito Valdes Banda da Lua Boys

  • Hawaii Calls: Greatest Hits by Webley Edwards with Al Kealoha

  • Hooked on Rock Classics by the London Symphony Orchestra with
    the Royal Choral Society

  • Hooked on Swing by Larry Elgart and his Manhattan Swing Orchestra

  • Mecca for Moderns by the Manhattan Transfer

  • More Italian Favorites by Connie Francis

  • Pop Goes the Movies by Meco

  • Rei Momo by David Byrne

  • See the Money in My Smile by the Jack Rubies

  • Skatetown U.S.A. soundtrack

  • Bootlegs of the impossible-to-find soundtracks for Beyond the Valley
    of the Dolls
    and Valley Girl (very fitting during the time of
    the quake, eh?)

  • A Guinan/Whoopi Goldberg action figure

  • A transcript of the complete dialogue from Female Trouble

  • A promo t-shirt from 8 Seconds to Glory, the Luke Perry rodeo

  • Dr. Killemoff from the Toxic Crusaders series

An Entertainment Bonanza

Me and Mary and ElayneI don’t know if it’s possible to really explain Marty and Elayne. At least, I don’t think anyone could express exactly what it’s like to see them, to hear them.

Marty and Elayne are a husband-and-wife lounge act who perform nightly at
a Los Angeles restaurant/lounge called the Dresden. This place is
the toniest. It’s all brown velour walls and furniture and gold light fixtures.
Circular booths and small tables surround a baby grand piano ringed with
a counter and chairs.

Elayne sits at the piano with a pile of sheet music and a couple of extra
Casiotone keyboards. Next to her is Marty and his stand-up bass, with a
drum kit on the side just in case. Marty is the stone-faced protector of
Elayne, the ethereal artist who lives through the music she plays. It sweeps
her away, and Marty makes sure everyone respects that. Together, as they’ve
done for the last twenty years, they wail out popular favorites and old
standards. They don’t just perform simple smarmy covers, though. Every song
is transformed into something unique, something unbelievable, something
bordering on the incomprehensible.

Without fail, they start every song in a simple way, with either Marty singing
in his pitch-for-pitch Sinatra voice, or Elayne in her own jazzy, high-frequency
way. After a verse and a chorus, though, the fun begins. Elayne scats. She
scats like a cat in heat. She scats in song and plays improvised, otherwordly
riffs on the piano. Marty keeps the beat and keeps it strong, plucking or
pounding away a steady rhythm that moves Elayne along like a runaway roller
coaster. The overall effect seems pretty cheesy, but there’s something about
it — something way beyond the humor and the impossible.

You see, these guys have passion for what they’re doing. They’re serious
and it shows. If they were just going along in a happy state of shtick,
I don’t think it would work. It would be too over the top. This is the real
thing, and it makes all the difference. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
Of course, I saw people in the room who were watching them with a superior,
Lettermanesque shit-eating grin, but most everyone, the people who looked
like they kept coming back, was having fun: they all really appreciated
Marty and Elayne in a goofy way. Dresden is by no means a cheap gin joint.
There’s no cover, but people wouldn’t pay those drink prices if the show
wasn’t worth it.

Marty and Elayne perform a huge selection of tunes, mostly on request, like
"Girl from Ipanema," "Staying Alive," "Fever,"
"Mack the Knife," "Muskrat Love" and other crowd-pleasers.
The most amazing number I heard of them all, by far, was "Light My
Fire." This transcended mere performance. I think it transcended mere
music. With Elayne taking the vocal reins and the keyboards, and Marty on
the drums, these two wailed away in a frenzy I couldn’t have ever expected.
I haven’t seen musicians swept away like that in a looooong time. All hail
Marty and Elayne, keeping the sanctity of the lounge alive!

Spurning Los Angeles

Written by Mark Scarola

For some, culture shock can be an ugly and brutal reality

Mark ScarolaMark Scarola has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. He fled Los Angeles shortly before I arrived there. This is his story.

"What folly," archaeologists muse as they survey the ruins
of ancient Pompeii, "to have built a city along the side of a highly
active volcano!" Tracing the edges of urns and caskets with their fingers,
they note that the citizenry of Pompeii were highly skilled craftsmen, but
lacked any semblance of common sense. I wonder what archaeologists will
say, centuries from now, when they inspect the ruins of Pompeii’s spoiled
little brother, Los Angeles. Will they sort through piles of stucco and
asphalt and cry, "These are the remaining fragments of an over-burdened
metropolis?" Or will they simply acknowledge that twentieth-century
man had such little sense for an animal with such a voluminous brain.

Los Angeles is, much like Pompeii was, a city that simply should never have
existed. It is as if Angelenos are fighting a war against good judgement.
Death knocks on their door biannually in the form of mudslides and brushfires,
yet instead of abandoning death’s favorite vacation hideaway, they try to
ignore his golden tan. "It would be so . . . East Coast," they
say, "to be worried and tense about something over which we have no
control." This remark is often made from a cellular phone in the midst
of heavy traffic. Their attitude is often described as "laid back,"
but it does not take much of a psychologist to see this as a form of self-defense
using state-of-the-art passive-aggressive techniques. "Run for your
lives!" we scream at them, hoping that self-preservation will take
hold and they will scramble for safer ground. But they refuse to budge:
they struggle to appear not to be struggling — to show us how a stress-free
life is led. They are more concerned with earning a merit badge for "Most
Masturbatory Form of Disinterest" than they are with simply surviving.
They pooh-pooh the notion that they are only an earthquake away from being
permanently laid-back, noting coolly that it’s supposed to be 85 degrees
down in San Diego on Tuesday, with four-foot waves.

I must admit, being a New Yorker, that I do sometimes feel that I’m a bit
too judgmental, and perhaps I exaggerate when discussing the City of Angels,
but I feel I have a right to. I lived in Los Angeles for a six-month period
ending just before the Northridge Earthquake. In a town where one industry
monopolizes the money and the attention, I was an outsider. Interesting
social conversations (those that did not involve Hollywood film) were rare,
as I had no desire to discuss the film industry. I soon grew tired of listening
to stories about people I didn’t know and things I’d never see (much less
care about). And, as you might already have guessed, everyone was too busy
relaxing to have taken notice of my perpetual boredom.

The "laid-back" nature of Angelenos leaves them, as we have witnessed
in recent years, in a state of chaos when havoc strikes. The hands-off approach
to improving race relations resulted in the 1992 riots, and the relaxed
police department exacerbated the already disastrous situation. It still
amazes me that there are people sleeping outdoors after this year’s earthquake.
"Hmmm," says Mayor Riordan, "perhaps we ought to build a
few shelters, seeing as we live in such an earthquake-prone region of the
United States." "Your honor," replies one of his many aides,
"then we might seem concerned about our own welfare." "Good
point," says the big white guy, "forget I ever mentioned it."

I left Los Angeles knowing that I was heading back to New York, the drug-infested,
foul-smelling, crime-ridden center of my universe. I know that I’m placing
my life on the line every time I take a stroll after midnight. At least
I can take a stroll after midnight.

Angelenos, by the way, take to walking like cats to the backstroke. Angelenos
have never heard of public transportation, either. (Note to Angelenos —
"public transportation" is when the government supplies you with
an inexpensive and moderately efficient means of moving around urban and
suburban areas. I don’t expect you to know this now, but you may be tested
on it later.) When my car decided it needed a few days in the shop after
the cross-country trek to L.A., I was rendered absolutely immobile. As my
car racked up additional wear and tear, I found that if I stayed in L.A.,
and my car passed into the next world, I’d have no need to work, for I wouldn’t
be able to get there anyway. Besides, I’d certainly be helping to decrease
the density of the smog, even if I had to starve to do it.

It seemed to me that the only days I enjoyed being outdoors in L.A. were
the days after it had rained. The air seemed somewhat cleaner, and certainly
less arid. Of course, it only rained twice while I was in L.A. (one of those
days was the day I left), so perhaps my opinion isn’t truly an informed
one. I like having precipitation, and there are only two kinds in L.A.:
1) rain and 2) brushfire residue. My experience allows me to tell you that
ashes and soot fall more commonly than rain, so if you are asthmatic, consider
yourself warned. Before I finish with my tirade against dry, sunny, 75-degree
weather, I’d like to let you know that as I write this, I’m suffering from
the flu brought on by the 24 inches of snow N.Y.C. has received during the
past week. I’d still rather be here than in Los Angeles.

Almost as annoying as the climate of L.A. was the environment. Mainly, I
would like to address the fact that L.A. has approximately twelve palm trees
per square foot. This would not be notable except for the fact that palm
trees aren’t even indigenous to California, and quite simply, they’re ugly.
In essence, the city is overcrowded with imported, ugly trees. They line
the streets, the hillsides, the patios, the beaches, and the indoor malls.
They’re all over the place, and they’re hideously unattractive. (Have I
mentioned how ugly they are?)

Above all, L.A. lacks any sense of history. Being so concerned with setting
trends, it has forgotten its own past accomplishments. I remember the day
I stepped out of the Subaru dealership where my car was being operated on.
At my feet was a plaque that read, "This site was once the home of
Hal Roach Studios." I’m willing to bet they don’t even remember who
Hal Roach was.

I think I ought to now spend a few seconds extolling the one virtue of L.A.
Just outside of La Brea on Fairfax is L.A.’s one beacon of hope — The Silent
Movie Theatre. The only silent movie theatre still in existence, it contains
all of the magic that L.A. has squandered. A live organist improvises to
the films of Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, et al., while the rest of L.A.
goes to pot.

Boogie Nights at the Moonlight Rollerway

When was the last time you went roller skating? I don’t mean sleek rollerblades, I mean four thick wheels, big orange stopper in the front, disco blaring all around you. that’s what happened to me and my friends at the Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale.

We were originally attracted by the novelty of going to the only rink in
California that had a real organ player, but we found that it was the organist’s
day off, and the rink was actually a time capsule from 1982.

Now in 1983, I was a regular patron of Skate Odyssey on Staten Island
in New York. Moonlight had all the same elements that defined my early adolescent
years — earth-toned rugs, slushees, disco balls, and "Jam On It."
They were even having a birthday party for some kid while we were there,
and he got his own solo skate on the rink.

I would only sound gushy and totally retro if I spent too much time raving
about the fun to be had here for four dollars, so I’ll keep it simple. We
did a disco hokey-pokey on skates. We ate a big soft pretzel. We skated
to "Double Dutch," "YMCA," and even Elvis. I learned
I could still skate backwards, and my friend Monica, a Ph.D. candidate in
religion and philosophy, was so moved that she stripped down to a catsuit
to boogie on the rink. I’m sure all the twelve-year-olds will never be the
same again.

Gawking in L.A.

Dan Rhatigan, your resident megalomaniacal self-publisher, wrote, lived, and photographed this shocking tale of disaster and wonderment.

Accommodations provided by Northwest Airlines and the sinister Dr. Lau.

This was my first time

I mean it — wow. Wow. Wow! Freakin’ WOW!

I just returned from my first trip out West — a brief week in Los Angeles
to visit my oldest pal Eddie and see what the whole West Coast thing was
like. It would be a criminal understatement to say that I got my money’s
worth from my discount airfare tickets. I got adventure, trash, sorrow,
glamour, nostalgia, chicken and waffles, and natural disaster. Bad omens,
however, started pouring in as I left Boston. I left work early so I could
get a head start to the airport for a six-thirtyish flight. I optimistically
(foolishly, whichever) ignored the warnings of snow, fiercely determined
to escape to the land of seventy-six-and-sunny come hell or high water.
The plane left a little late, but I wasn’t too worried, since I had a direct
flight, needing only to switch to a different plane with the same flight
number in Minneapolis. (You can see this coming, right?)

I packed my warmer layers into my tote bag and checked it once I reached
the airport. I patiently waited at the airport, eavesdropping on a conversation
between a jappy girl and a trashy family as they compared notes on their
respective trips to Portugal. This girl was sitting around reading, and
soon the thirteenish daughter from the family recognized her and started
interrogating her about her vacation. Soon, the whole bunch got into the
act, bombarding the slightly horrified young lady with ardent small talk.
At one point, she was struck dumb when the young son of the family started
asking her about her romantic life, and if she knew "Joe Escobar,"
apparently a friend of the family’s in Portugal. I left before I started
to suffer brain rot.

The plane ride itself was uneventful as those things go. The selection of music was catastrophically poor — the blandest possible assortment of inoffensive pop hits and country-western ditties. This was not the best assortment for someone who prefers music that’s a little more challenging. The in-flight news and travel show, a shameless promotional vid by the airline, was a paltry attempt to distract the passengers from the fact that we were getting no movie. Again, it was meant to be singularly inoffensive. Their little
travel info pieces on different cities like San Francisco and New Orleans
would suggest that every city in the country is a pleasant racial mix, straight,
and affluent. A lifelong city-dweller, I was skeptical. The news was little
more than entertainment dreck profiling Michael Bolton and some retail magnate.
Admittedly, though, I have never been one to enjoy lowest-common-denominator
entertainment. Craving distraction from that cultural vacuum, I scarfed
down free snacks (those honey-roasted peanuts aren’t as bad as standup comedians
would have us believe, don’t you think?) and Cokes (they’ll give you a full
can of Coke as opposed to a thimbleful of anything else) and struck up conversation
with the guy sitting next to me, a music scene guy from Minneapolis who
was visiting his sister in Beantown. We talked about the state of rock clubs
in Boston and junk like that, and I thought it was really wacky that you
can have a long conversation with someone while traveling without exchanging
names, since they’re largely unimportant. I started getting nervous when
the airline began to make announcements about which connecting flights had
already left Minneapolis, since they made no mention about the fate of the
flight I was on. I’m a pretty unseasoned traveler, so I had no idea how
these direct (as opposed to non-stop) flights operated.

The Pit Stop
Sure enough — BAM — I was stranded overnight in deep Minnesota six-degree
winter with nothing but a pullover shirt, a barely quilted leather jacket,
and the emergency toilet kit in my camera bag. Once settling accommodation
and rebooking issues with the airline, I set off toward a fabulous evening
in the posh Comfort motor lodge.

On the shuttle bus to the motel, I struck up a few more anonymous conversations,
this time with two girls from Rhode Island who were fiercely determined
to get drunk, and a Minnesota man who inadvertently proved that people from
that state are way too friendly for their own safety. Once at the hotel,
the two girls invited me to go to the Mall of America with them to a bar
called Hooters, and I agreed on the spur of the moment. I walked upstairs
to my freezing earth-toned room to drop my junk, and then back down to the
lounge to see if anyone else from my flight was there. "Cheers"
was on the TV, and I thought it oddly fitting that I was stranded en route
to my vacation only to be faced with a TV show set in the city I’d fled
earlier in the day. Placing my order for a really early wake-up call, I
realized that a trip to the country’s largest mall with two Rhode Island
townies who were probably trying to pick me up would probably cause me to
draw blood. I knocked on the door of their room and announced that I was
gonna bail. I decided to stay in and wallow in the injustice of my inability
to escape subfreezing temperatures and watch a goofy Mel Gibson movie. (A
date I’d had the night before mentioned a big crush on Mel Gibson, so I
thought I should ponder if that was a scary thing or not.) I couldn’t even
draw weird pictures and write unsettling messages on the backs of the prints
in the room because they were bolted onto the walls. I wrapped myself in
four or five blankets and went to sleep.

In the morning I commiserated with a guy who was on my flight the night
before. Boy, did the two of us switch into bitchy queen mode as we rehashed
every indignity forced upon us, from travel delays to bitter cold to Middle
America to generic toiletries. At least our new plane did provide me with
my first celebrity sighting of the trip–Olympic wash-up Scott Hamilton.
Other than that, the flight was largely uneventful–imitation Egg McMuffins
and dry cereal, The Good Son, lots of free beverages.

I was blown away when we flew over the desert, however. A lifetime in the
Northeast left me totally unprepared to see terrain that was so vast, colorful,
and empty. It was hard to shake the feeling that I was just looking at more
Timothy O’Sullivan pictures, not actually passing over this huge patch of
dramatic terrain with its monolithic landforms. The East is so godawful
round and bland — the mountains are so old and worn, too much green and babyshit
brown, everything blending into everything else. It was a real shock to
fly over a jagged mountain range and then suddenly see a huge, flat sprawling
metropolis nestled between the hills and the water.

Sparky in Venice Eddie

Finally. . .
Ed had to work the day I arrived, so his roommate Matt picked me up and
brought me back to the Chinese palace where they live. (Trust me, that’s
the best description.) If you’ve never seen L.A., let me assure you that
every description you’ve heard — good or bad — is totally true. The city is
trashy, beautiful, eclectic, hideous, smoggy, sunny, and just plain different
from any of the big cities I’d been to in the East.

Matt drove me around and I began my photo essay of an outsider’s view of
Los Angeles. We hit Hollywood Boulevard, with its old glamour degenerated
into kitsch-laden decadence; the Sunset Strip, with its info overload; and
Beverly Hills, with its hodge-podge of revivalist architecture. It’s like
the whole city buys into the notion that everything in it was built for
a movie set.

We drove up to Malibu and examined the fire devastation in the hills around
Topanga Canyon. Already I’d witnessed the effect of hitting beautiful, sparsely
populated nature minutes from a crammed downtown. To celebrate the fantastic
day (it had been a full 75 degrees colder when I woke up that morning),
we decided to park by the side of the road and jump into the ocean. I felt
remarkably uninhibited as I stripped down to my Calvins and frolicked in
the Pacific for the first time in my life. Damn, that water was cold. I
thought my willy would retract all the way back to my intestines. "Oh
that’s right," I remembered, "this is still January, isn’t it."
The "Baywatch" fantasy shot to hell, I suppose.

The next few days were filled with wackiness, as various sidebars will show.
On the whole, I had heaps of fun. I liked the city a lot, and seriously
entertained thoughts of life there. I was transfixed by the notion of a
city where the spirit of trash and pop culture is so alive, so ubiquitous.
Aside from every other sight reminding me of a movie or TV show, the L.A.
aesthetic is invariably misguided and amusing. I don’t know how to drive,
though, and have spent a lifetime growing to love walking in big cities
and seeing people all the time. Car culture like L.A.’s might well kill

Despite all my adventures, some things were just not in the cards. We didn’t
do much in the way of nightlife, since the fellas weren’t big club fans.
That meant I didn’t get to see if any notable celebs were secret closet
cases. We were refused service when we went to Trader Vic’s, since we apparently
weren’t classy enough for their Polynesian Revival theme. I never got to
plunder the costume and prop warehouse at the movie company where Ed works.
I never got to see how much Disneyland will tolerate before throwing someone
out. I would have liked to have done some serious shopping, but none of
us had enough money to justify reckless behavior like that. I would have
liked to have seen Weird Al’s house in Beverly Hills, but I didn’t get the
chance. I did, however get Burt Ward’s phone number, so if anyone wants
to wish Robin their best, call him at 310/376-8060.

Just Like an Irwin Allen Flick
The big event, of course, was the earthquake.

As fate would have it, Los Angeles was ravaged by a 6.6 Richter-scale act
of god whilst I vacationed. Truth be told, I was pretty oblivious to the
devastation that leveled the San Fernando valley (THE valley, of Valley
fame), but it was a pip just the same.

When the first bang hit, I woke up and thought it was one of those frequent
minor tremors that I’d seen so often in movies like L.A. Story. It
was a pretty cool rumbling (not unlike airplane turbulence) followed by
a distant smash of glass and lots of car alarms and barking dogs. Ed and
Matt both rushed out of their rooms and were amazed. It was apparently the
biggest they’d felt since moving there a year-and-a-half ago. The two of
them were stunned that I was so blasé about it. We didn’t know the
scope of the whole thing till later, since the power went out and there
was no transistor radio. All we knew was that Ed got a rug-burn scab on
his knee from crawling across his floor to the doorjamb of his room.

The damage we found was pretty much along these lines: a poster taped to
a wall fell down, a roll of linoleum toppled over, a mirror fell without
cracking, a latex severed head dropped off a shelf, and a lone champagne
flute cracked. Ed’s friend Brad was the first to call and check on us. From
him we learned that the tremor we felt was actually a really big deal. His
apartment windows shattered and lots of stuff flew off shelves and walls.
We all went back to sleep, often waking to aftershocks and phone calls.
Prompted by my panic-stricken mother in New York, Ed’s dad called to see
if we were okay, since they had heard on the news that there was this huge
quake which collapsed sections of the freeway and caused fires and floods
all over the city. News to us!

We had power and fairly reliable phone service a couple of hours later and
saw exactly what had happened. Basically, in Matt’s words, "the earthquake
hit where Whitey lived." Maybe the riots had claimed the inner city
in the past, but natural disaster had taken its toll on more affluent neighborhoods
and suburbs. Some major freeway sections collapsed, which will make commuting
utter hell for a while, and there was lots and lots of property damage.
The entire valley was almost sealed off from the rest of civilization. Heaps
of people died. Over seventy trailer homes went up in smoke. We watched
footage of fireballs shooting up from the street as water mains sent torrents
past them. The rumble was felt as far away as Las Vegas, and electricity
went out as far away as Portland, Oregon, because of the drain on the western
power grid. Blah, blah, blah — for a long time it was hard to watch the news
without hearing all the gritty details rehashed.

Let me digress and say that Los Angeles journalists are the biggest bunch
of yahoos that ever lived. Every time a scientist at CalTech issued a caution
about possible structural damage, a reporter would chirp in, "You mean
to say we’re seeing massive destruction on a cataclysmic scale?" One
newscaster was reporting on hospital crowding because of quake injuries,
and said that a particular hospital in the valley was facing a flood of
emergency patients &mdash so she leans into the camera and says, "So just
don’t go there!" Great way to keep the masses calm, cool, and collected,
eh? Another woman — in Northridge, the town with the dubious honor of sitting
on the epicenter of the quake — urged viewers to listen to the sound of gas
leaking from a collapsed house, while she poked her head into the rubble
from which a man just been freed. What kind of nimrod stunt was that? "Gee,
you can actually hear the gas, not just smell it! Let’s look into this pile
of rubble and see what’s there. Got a match, anyone?"

We soon started to find out what had happened to the people around us. Matt
scanned the Internet to see what news had seeped through. We called anyone
we could, and heard stories of collapsed wall units, shattered glass, near
misses, and overall disbelief that the whole thing had really happened.
Once we had contacted just about everyone we knew and either compared stories
or reassured them of our safety, Ed’s friend Laurie from work called and
said that their Beverly Hills office was trashed, so there would be no work.
Instead, she invited people to her house in Pasadena, where she and her
hubby hadn’t seen any damage. Basically, while parts of the city were engulfed
by cataclysm and catastrophe, a group of us basked in the sun, playing croquet
and drinking (there was no fiddler playing in the background). It was pretty
L.A. — pretty decadent and jaded — if you stop and think about it.

What’s with these people ?
The city of Los Angeles on the whole seemed to react in strange ways to
the whole catastrophe. Aside from the aforementioned loopy newscasters and
general panic, the city seemed to have some very peculiar responses. Lots
of people on the news seemed to feel no regret that they lost everything,
as if the climate made it all right to put up with natural disaster. The
other half of the people spoke of plans to depart immediately, with reckless
disregard about whether or not they had someplace to go. One of the city’s
first acts was to impose a citywide curfew, the fear of looting still fresh
in everyone’s minds. (It was definitely strange to feel that I might be
arrested if I even went to the convenience store for snacks. I never had
a curfew growing up, and suddenly stuff worse than being grounded could
happen.) Too many people seemed to worry about how soon the federal government
would reimburse them for lost property. I’m used to New Englanders whining
but stoically putting up with their own climate. Panic really surprises
me, but there’s a world of difference between a Nor’easter and an earthquake.

Off like a prom dress
There were no problems with the airport by the time I was supposed to leave
the next morning, so I got on the plane and resumed life as usual. I talked
to a girl sitting next to me who was a musical theatre major returning to
school in Boston. I managed to hold my end in a conversation about show
tunes and Barbra Streisand (Gee, where might a young fag have learned to
do that?), all the while trying to throw in more interesting tidbits about
myself in hopes of catching the interest of the really cute guy with the
shaved head and the striped shirt sitting in front of me. Hey, man, if you’re
out there and recognize any of this, don’t be shy!


Ooze title

monitorOoze bites the hand that feeds it! Ooze came one step closer to its formidable goal of total media domination this past fall when it was included in an exhibit called alt.youth.media at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art. Could this really be a sign of recognition by the digerati and the art-world elite or just another hoodwink?

Trusty Mark Scarola and I were deputized as East Coast Correspondents and dispatched by Ooze International Headquarters to attend their prestigious art opening in New York’s infamous Soho. Getting our lazy asses there involved a flurry of e-mail and much FedExing of tickets, info, and promotional Ooze T-shirts (buy yours today, or suffer the humiliation of going without).

The entire block of Broadway in front of the museum (a misnomer at best: the space isn’t much bigger than the sweatshop loft Mark and I call home) was bustling with “alt.youths” as far as the eye could see. Yessirree bub, it looked like someone was lumping the malcontents at Ooze in with lots and lots of teenagers who took punk rock and hipster threads VERY seriously. It felt a lot like going to a high school art club meeting.

Showing skinFeeling sufficiently smug, Mark and I donned our Ooze shirts, got the disposable camera ready, and elbowed through the pubescent crowd at the door. It took a little bit of doe-eyed doubletalk to get our friend, world-famous wine critic Tom Maresca, inside with us since the invite was not so much an announcement as much as a means of Gestapo-like crowd control. Eventually, we were allowed to enter, squeeze past the gift counter, and plunge into the midst of this hullabaloo of teen self-expression. (“I wasn’t expecting this to be such a scene!” said the ever succinct Simon Spelling, an editor of exhibit-sponsor Metrobeat.)

Mark and Dan
My first observation: damn loud and damn crowded. I tried to start slow, so I stopped to look at the blown-up photos of kids in their rooms and read the pithy, Wired-esque blurbs about the exhibit’s aim to showcase the work of a generation thoroughly schooled in media blah blah blah blah blah. I slapped some of my own stickers up over the tags and other stickers covering the whole wall and got on with it.

The inside of the exhibit was a lot like craft day show-and-tell at the average summer camp. Half the room was devoted to zines pinned up on the wall and strewn across a bunch of counters. A nicely equipped “Do It Yourself” area sat in another corner where they encouraged people to play with copiers, rubber stamps, markers, glue sticks, and old magazines and make their very own zines right there on the spot! You only needed to read through the stuff other people had done for about ten minutes to be reminded that some people don’t really lighten up until they grow up a little. I haven’t seen so much gratuitous, angst-ridden manifestos since . . . well . . . since I was about sixteen. Naturally, the gents and I felt compelled to dive into the fray and produce our own punky, subversive, politically-charged zine right their on the spot so we wouldn’t be denied our own shot at uninhibited self-expression! Let’s just say that the long-awaited third issue of Rumpus Room is a little skimpy, but it’s a blistering satire of other zines, and it’s now in the collection of a museum in a major East Coast city. Or at least in its prestigious dumpster.

I had to search pretty hard through the amateur video area and the music sampling studio before I finally found the terminals for the big multimedia section in the back. Well, the verdict was in: The Web may be Big Business in the press, but the alt.youth.artworld thought it only rated two tiny monitors in a far, shadowy corner. Each terminal “featured” about 20 websites, so I felt Ooze needed a break. We hoarded the computer from time to time and forced innocent strangers to watch Ooze on screen while Mark and I took pictures of each other as a cheap publicity stunt.

Free drinksAs soon as we finished the free fancy sodas (no wine at an art opening?!) and tired of hob-nobbing with the teen zine scenesters, we beat a hasty retreat. Those t-shirts definitely work, though: we got funny looks all night long from people who couldn’t quite decide if the baby with the fork in its head was valid self-expression of a just a joke in poor taste. Score one for our side.

[Originally published in September 1996 for Ooze.]

Beads and Blankets

South Africa

This is one of the few pictures from a South African travel brochure (circa approximately 1960) that actually shows some of the native population. No, this was not an early sign of the fall of apartheid, though. I quote:

Travelling comfortably along the highways and byways you will see these picturesque native people. When passing through the Native Reserves, remember to pause at the local trading store. It is the natural meeting place and you should meet many colourful “types”.