Monday, September 26, 2011

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.A. (Or, “The Return Of Warren Zevon’s Pioneer Chicken Stand”)


Seeing how much flak (and attention) I got from all y'all over my short story 'PAIN MANAGEMENT', I considered turning that idea into a series. It seems most of my friends who read that piece experienced half a shade of anxiety from it - thinking that perhaps it was a gussied-up suicide note.

In response to that overreaction, it seemed to me that perhaps I should begin a new series titled "The Weekly Suicide Note". The concept being that every Monday morning I will post a creatively conceived suicide note, and your job is to guess which of them will eventually turn out to be the "real" thing. Like it? (Yuck!-Yuck! Jocularity!-Jocularity!)

Alright, m-m-m-ove along now. Th-th-there's nothing left to see here. That's all folks.

Yeah, that's what I OUGHTA DO! But since I rarely do what I oughta do, all y'all are off the hook on that one.

Instead, what I'm going to do is post pictures from my recent trip to My Homemegalopolis (Los Angeles), and add some really brilliant commentary . . . if I can find a brilliant commentaryist

As some of you know, my brother Nappy and I spent a few vacation days out L.A.-way at the beginning of this month and, for me, the trip had a kind of "Rock 'N' Roll" theme to it, as I spent some time photographing notable Rock 'N' RolL.A. sites. I'm splitting this vacation recap blog bit up into 2 segments because yer always pissin' 'n' moanin' about how long my blog posts are. (Just grow a pre-MTV adult attention span, will ya?)

Part 1 has to do with the Rock music aspect of the trip (and other "entertainment"-like stuffs); Part 2 - coming soon - will be titled "Disappointment In Riptide City" and will be about . . . everything else. As Howlin' Wolf said, "Alright, let's get on it!"


Nappy and I stayed at some hotel in Hawthorne. Nearby in Hawthorne is a monument to The Beach Boys boyhood home. (And I loves me some Beach Boys!) The house was long ago demolished, but here's a picture of where it stood and the monument there to the Wilson Brothers - Brian, Carl, and Dennis:

According to Art Fein's 'The L.A. Musical History Tour' book, the Foster's Freeze at 11969 Hawthorne Blvd. is notable for the following:

Local legend has it that it was at this burger stand that young Brian Wilson saw a girl driving her daddy's T-Bird, which was subsequently taken from her, inspiring the song, "Fun, Fun, Fun".

Apocryphal? Perhaps, but it's certain that the adolescent Wilson boys spent plenty of time here, since it is just around the corner from their family home at 3701 West 119th  Street.

Well, it's obvious that Art Fein was never here, because if he had been, he would know that this Foster's Freeze is hardly "around the corner" from the Wilson family's home (in fact, the site of their former home was a royal pain in the ass to find!). Nevertheless, the Wilson Boys probably did spend plenty of time at this Foster's Freeze, and the "Fun, Fun, Fun" legend might well be true:


[The following photos were taken by Henry Diltz in 1969.]

At 1246 South Hope Street, in downtown Los Angeles, was the Morrison Hotel, where Mr. Diltz photographed The Doors for the cover of their album of the same name:

I took the following photos, showing what the site looks like in September of 2011. The boarded-up section is what was once the Morrison Hotel's front window, which served as the front of the album cover:

Look closely and you'll see that on the plywood board that covers the former entrance to the hotel, someone has scrawled "Morrison Hotel" and "L.A. Woman", utilizing the Dodgers' way of integrating the L and the A:

The back of the album cover showed the first, the  original "Hard Rock Cafe" at 300 East Fifth Street, downtown Los Angeles (or, "On The Nickel" as the Skid Row inhabitants refer to that dilapidated street in that part of the city) :

Here's a rarely seen Henry Diltz photo showing The Doors out in front of the original "Hard Rock Cafe" on L.A.'s Skid Row:

And below is a photo I took earlier this month of the same site. What was once the "Hard Rock Cafe" is now the "Green Apple Market". Standing out in front is my brother Napoleon (or, Nappy) on the left, in the white T-shirt and powder blue UCLA baseball cap, and our dear old friend General Poohregard in the light green Hawaiian shirt stands beside him. I went inside and bought a soda pop, which Jim Morrison would have found unacceptable:

Does anyone remember the old 1970's TV show 'Baretta' starring Robert Blake? Tony Baretta lived with his cockatoo pal Fred in apartment 2C of the King Edward Hotel. Below is a picture I took of that hotel, also located on Fifth Street downtown, just a couple blocks west of what would be officially considered "Skid Row". One could have easily gotten falling-down liquored-up at the Hard Rock Cafe and then stumbled home to their room at the King Edward Hotel:

Below is a photo of me, circa 1978 or '79, when I was 18 or 19 years old. My friend The Flying Aardvark said I look like Jim Morrison in that photo. [Remember that, you'll need it later.]

About 28 years ago, I introduced my friend General Poohregard to a small, almost hidden bar/restaurant in downtown Los Angeles on Sixth Street called "Cole's" [as Randy Newman sang: "Sixth Street - We love it!" ]

Below is a photo of brother Nappy (right) and me (left, at age 52) having a beer at Cole's before heading to the Dodger game. Remember my "Jim Morrison" look from the photo above? Yeah, I found out firsthand that as we age... Shit Happens to our appearance!


If you've been faithfully reading this blog "Stuffs" then you know that I am a fan of the one and only David & David album "Boomtown". Back in the mid-'80s when life seemed so crappy to me, I played the living hell out of that album. That was around the same time I was semi-regularly visiting at night, after work, a bar located in a hotel in downtown Los Angeles. I had long forgotten the name of that hotel or on what street it could be found. But I always mentally associated it with the David & David album "Boomtown".

Well, that hotel bar has now been identified: Shortly after returning from our L.A. trip, I accidentally stumbled upon an old illustrated "Downtown Los Angeles" map I had saved from decades ago. I immediately recognized the spire-topped rounded roof in the drawing on that map.

The bar in question is located at the Embassy Hotel on Grand Avenue at 9th Street. I showed it to brother Nappy and the first words out of his mouth were: "Not a good neighborhood, idiot!"  And that's coming from the toughest Mofo I know.

Below is a photo I found of the Embassy Hotel on Grand Avenue. Wanna meet me there some night for a Grand Marnier on the rocks? I'll buy. We'll just pretend it's 1986 all over again. ("And when I pour they smile, and say to me that I'm a rock for the forgotten.")

Below is a music video for the David & David song "A Rock For The Forgotten" - one of my very favorites on that criminally underrated and mostly forgotten "Boomtown" album . (I think you should play it. That's why I included it!) Listening to "Boomtown" on the way home from our trip, Nappy called their stuffs "Music Noir" because, as he said, "You can't listen to it without imagining long, dark shadows". Good call, brother Nappy!

At the Firefly we all tell lies
And the cleanup kid hangs his head
He's the quiet type, came to L.A. to write
But he never made it out of the fringes
Keeps a low profile, you kick him he'll smile
Thinks blood is his payment for losing
~ 'A Rock For The Forgotten' by David & David

[It seems there really is a Firefly bar on Ventura Blvd. in "The Valley", I don't know if it's the same place that David & David had in mind when they wrote the song below, but either way, my own personal "Firefly" was the Embassy Hotel bar on Grand Ave.]


I got to spend one day of my vacation with my friend The Flying Aardvark, and she drove me around in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of the Hollywood area in order that I could snap the following series of pictures:

Now on Hollywood and Vine
By the Thrifty Mart sign
Any night I'll be willin' to bet
There's a young girl
With sweet little dreams and pretty blue wishes
Standin' there just gettin' all wet
~ 'A Sweet Little Bullet From A Pretty Blue Gun'
by Tom Waits

Here's a picture of the Hollywood & Vine intersection - undoubtedly the most disappointing tourist destination in the entire world. There's no Thrifty drug store there now, but unless my memory really fails me, I do vaguely seem to recall that there was one there in the 1970s when this Tom Waits song was written. And I want to say that it was on the Southeast corner as seen in my photo below. [Can I get an assist on this from any old-time Angeleno native out there?]

Now there's a place off the drag
Called the Gilbert Hotel
And there's a couple letters
Burned out in the sign
~ 'A Sweet Little Bullet From A Pretty Blue Gun'
by Tom Waits

Much of Hollywood is really raunchy looking, and it made me laugh when I got back to the Aard’s automobile after taking my “Gilbert Hotel” picture to find she had locked herself in the car for the couple minutes I was out of it. Ha! Smart girl though!

[Note to Doctor DiscConnected: By the way, the Gilbert Hotel is no more than a few blocks from Amoeba Records.]


From the spoken Introduction to Tom Waits' song "Better Off Without A Wife":

Well, actually, I don't mind going to weddings or anything. As long as it's not my own, I show up. But, eh... I've always kind of been partial to calling myself up on the phone and asking myself out. You know... (whoops from the audience). Oh yeah, you call yourself up too, huh? Yeah... Well, one thing about it, you're always around! Yeah, I know. Yeah, you ask yourself out, you know. Some class joint somewhere. The Burrito King or something. You know... Well, I ain't cheap, you know.

At the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Alvarado stands the first in what eventually became a chain of fast food burrito joints called Burrito King.

Although I had eaten at one of the other locations before, the first establishment is now the only one still operating. Nappy, Pooh and I stopped by this infamous ROCK 'N' ROLLAS hangout. Below are some photos of Nappy and Pooh debating whether or not to chance it. (I had the Chile Relleno burrito. I can’t say it’s the best I’ve ever had, but it damn sure was the hottest! I had to wait 5 minutes for it to cool down sufficiently to take my first bite.)

Here’s a really cool video of Warren Zevon visiting the same Burrito King in 1977:

At the end of this blog bit I am including a link to an interesting article about L.A.’s defunct Burrito King fast food chain. It appeared in, of all places, the New York Times. I thought it was a good read, and I also found the mention of the Campos burrito chain neat because, in fact, the League Of Soul Crusaders and I were partial to Campos. We often visited the one on Pico Blvd. near the Pigwalk, and later were regular customers of the Campos on Lincoln and Ocean Park Blvds. (the latter joint inspiring the saying, “Never ask for extra chips!” – but it’s a long story).


I was sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel
I was staring in my empty coffee cup
~ 'Desperados Under The Eaves' by Warren Zevon

In my opinion, “Desperados Under The Eaves” was Warren Zevon’s all-time greatest song. What is now the ‘Princess Grace Apartments’ at Yucca and Grace streets in Hollywood was actually ‘The Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel’ back when Zevon wrote and recorded his masterpiece. It can be seen at the right in the photos below:

Well, I pawned my Smith-Corona
And I went to meet my man
He hangs out down on Alvarado Street
By the Pioneer Chicken stand
~ 'Carmelita' by Warren Zevon

If you Google "Warren Zevon/Carmelita/Pioneer Chicken stand" you will find that there is a lot of confusion on the Internet about whether or not there ever really was a Pioneer Chicken stand on Alvarado Street in the Echo Park area of L.A., as mentioned in his song. I'm here to clear this question up once and for all.

As I recently posted on someone else's website, YES, in the 1970s there WAS a Pioneer Chicken stand on Alvarado Street.

Back when I was a kid, (1969 through the mid-'70s) my Grandfather used to take us to Dodger games. He would take Venice Boulevard [not the Santa Monica Freeway, as I mistakenly wrote on that other bloke's website], turn left (North) on Hoover Street, and then turn on to Alvarado Street where it intersects with Hoover. We’d continue on Alvarado north past MacArthur Park, pass under the Hollywood Freeway (the 101), cross Sunset Blvd., and then turn right on Scott Ave. which would take us right up into the Dodger Stadium parking lot.

Well, right on Alvarado Street, on the east side near the Alvarado Street/Montana Street intersection, there used to be a Pioneer Chicken Stand. And I can still distinctly remember seeing all these scroungy looking characters hanging around the place every time we passed by. (My Grandpa had Dodger season tickets, so we passed by the Chicken Stand a lot!)

At that intersection today is a Von’s grocery store. I believe a grocery store was always there (although not necessarily the same chain). The Pioneer Chicken stand was essentially in what would today be the western edge of the Von’s grocery store parking lot.

I’m convinced that this was the Pioneer Chicken stand Zevon referred to in ‘Carmelita’ because it meets the criteria: it was directly ON Alvarado Street and just 3 or 4 blocks from Echo Park itself, and it was a haven for hippie-lookin’ dudes who probably weren’t waiting around there for the freshest batch of chicken to arrive.

Below are a couple photos of my ol’ buddy Pooh at the site of Warren Zevon's long lost Pioneer Chicken stand on Alvarado Street. In this first one, he's holding up a package of chicken. The chicken stand actually stood just a little to the left of and behind that left-most bright yellow post in the parking lot.
In the far background, you can see a red ambulance parked beside the Von’s Grocery Store. The paramedics had been called to tend to a dude who was comatose and lying underneath the newspaper rack in front of the store. Yeah, things haven’t changed much in the Echo Park area.

Here’s another photo, one that Poohregard cleverly put together for me. “Don’t eat that drumstick, Pooh! You don’t know where that chicken leg has been!”


I was thinking that the gypsy wasn't lyin'
All the salty margaritas in Los Angeles
I'm gonna drink 'em up
~ 'Desperados Under The Eaves' by Warren Zevon

Anytime I listen to that song, the line about drinking all the margaritas in Los Angeles immediately makes me think of El Coyote mexican restaurant on Beverly Blvd. I’ve always thought they made L.A.’s best margarita.

Our first night back home, Nappy and I met up with a group of friends at El Coyote and had a margarita or two. It was loud and it was fun. Here’s “the evidence”:

L.A.'s best Maggy?

Hoodlums hangin' out after all the loudness . . .


Did any of you see the movie "Lords Of Dogtown"? Dogtown is the nickname given to South Santa Monica and North Venice, the area where Pooh, Nappy and I grew up. One scene in that movie was filmed at Rae’s, an authentic 1950s diner that used to be a regular Breakfast Club meeting place for The League Of Soul Crusaders. It's on Pico Blvd. at the Eastern edge of Santa Monica.

Nappy and I stopped in for breakfast one day, and I took a picture of the interior, in the same spot – as fate would have it – where the “Lords Of Dogtown” scene was filmed.


OK, we’ll bring this blog bit to a close at Venice Beach, where the idea for The Doors was born, and where Rickie Lee Jones honed her performing style before she had a record contract.

On Speedway, right down near the Venice Boardwalk you’ll find a large mural of Jim Morrison:

And further North on the Boardwalk you’ll find The Venice Bistro where at some times you can catch a Doors tribute band called “Strange Days” . . .

On the last full day of our trip, Nappy and I met for breakfast with our Bitter Brothers (a collection of current and former UCLA Parking Dept. employees) at the Sidewalk Café restaurant and bar on the Venice Beach Boardwalk (I love that restaurant!) . . .

Here’s a very old photo of the Sidewalk Café that I found on the Internet. Is it possible that the guitar-playing street performer shown at left is Slavin’ David? Sure looks like him to me:

Just down at the end of the block from the Sidewalk Cafe on the Venice Beach Boardwalk is Big Daddy & Sons Pizza. Painted on their wall is an advertisement claiming that they have the “WROLDS BEST FUNNEL CAKES”. Those of you who read my recently posted short story “Pain Management” ought to be having one of those “Ah-Ha!” moments right about now.

Below are the Bitter Brothers bitchin’ at their Sidewalk Café Bitter Breakfast meeting. From front to back, starting on the right: Ricki B, whose dad held every Los Angeles Rams rushing record until Eric Dickerson came along; my brother Nappy; General Poohregard.

Front to back from the left: Larry (“Lelly”) Rosen, a guitarist with Slavin’ David’s Blues/Rock band ‘Loose Gravel’; cartoonist Lonnie Millsap; and some weirdo in a cowboy hat who just happened to be strolling along the Boardwalk and begged us to let him be in the picture. [I've told you Venice Beach is full of strange people these strange days!]

You can read a review of Slavin’ David And Loose Gravel’s latest album “Rock And Roll Road” by clicking HERE.

The album cover was designed by Lonnie Millsap whose latest cartoon book “I Hate My Job” can be purchased by clicking HERE.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Related Reading:
By John M. Broder for The New York Times
Published: May 18, 2003

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Over the years he had grown increasingly impatient with God’s patience. His sense of justice longed to see God’s righteous wrath smite “this world”, this wretched, wicked world.

He knew, of course, that God’s patience was righteousness and that his impatience, being out of alignment with God’s will, was sin. But he was, after all, merely a man, and couldn’t be expected to exercise the same sort of wisdom and patience that his Creator did.

And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.
~ Joshua 6:26

His name was Jericho, and he studied the Bible diligently, so he was aware that God had appointed an End-Time, a point at which He would intervene, cast out the devil, his minions and his ways; there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and then the God of Love, and Christ, the Lord of Love, would rule a peaceful world. Any time now, Jericho thought. But days became weeks, weeks turned into months, and months and months became years and years. And Jericho grew weary of waiting and began to envy those in his social sphere who passed away into freedom from this world.

When Jericho was young, a teenager, his mother Stevie once told him that at his birth she intuitively sensed that he was a unique soul, a very special someone who had entered the world for a specific purpose, and when he suggested that this was likely something most mothers felt about their firstborn, she insisted that what she had apprehended about him went well beyond a mother’s customary pride and joy.

As he aged, Jericho became more and more convinced that God had blessed him with talent – a capacity for creativity. Wasn’t it true that Jericho rarely encountered other writers whom he felt to be his superior in wordsmithing?

In an attempt to utilize the talent he believed God had gifted him with, he tried his hand first at one thing and then another. He believed he had something to say through the vehicle of artistic expression: painting, acting, sculpting, photography. At one point, he had garnered a few miniscule bit parts in TV shows and sensed that he was beginning to gain a little traction. Certain, now, that he was working on something big.

Then everything seemed to dry up as soon as it had begun; the acting career simply fizzled into nothingness and disappeared. He failed first at one thing and then another.

But hadn’t God blessed him? Surely the Creator had loaned him some talent. How else could he be able to so thoroughly recognize talent in others, to understand it at such a depth and to articulate it in such clear and perceptive ways?

Over time he finally came to realize that his gifts were supernaturally restricted. Perserverance was irrelevant; success was not an option. Would God bestow a gift and then block the world’s view of it? Perhaps God gave it but then permitted the devil to bind it down, the way He had allowed the devil to impact the life of Job. Maybe God-given gifts had been misused in a previous lifetime and the karmic consequence was a gift that couldn’t be recognized or appreciated by the outside world. Regardless of the reason, the outcome was the same: a desire to create, a capacity to create, but a supernatural barrier against worldly artistic success.

He had tried blogging and failed even at that. His posts, they were always too long, too angry, too complex, too serious, too silly, too something. Always too damned something. He couldn’t even give it away! At the age of 54, hope was getting hard to find.

And so he grew tired of seeing praise heaped upon others whom he believed had less talent than he and had less to say with it. Every bimbo in garish makeup with a dance track was a major hit; every Kung Fu-fighting Mastodon was a movie star; every Feminist writer was a millionaire with a fawning fan base.

Most of all, Jericho grew disgusted by the sight of God’s enemies in this world winning! Until even the success of the merely mediocre agnostics began to irritate him.

Jericho had come to feel that dreams were just dreams. He believed that he was internally honest with himself – and there’s no one as honest as those in pain.

But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.
~ Ecclesiastes 12:12

Jericho knew about the Khmer Rouge. He knew about Operation Northwoods, 9/11 and other American false-flag terrorist events. He knew about the injustice of Family Courts, the Federal Reserve’s illegal and immoral economic prestidigitation, and he just couldn’t live in a world with these things much longer.

He gradually came to suspect that the maxim was true: ignorance is bliss. At the very least, it left a person able to interact with others and not feeling entirely isolated and excommunicated from ordinary society. He came to almost regret all the reading he had done. And what was the point of scholarly study anyway, when every John and Jane Doe felt their opinion was as valid as yours regardless of how many tomes you had consumed on the subject while they were watching 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer', 'American Idol', 'The Simpsons', and 'Lost'?

Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.
~ Psalm 127:1

Jericho worked as a night watchman, and night after night, he would look up at God and say he was lonely. Jericho couldn’t relate to "the world today", and he’d often think, This ain't no job for a man like me; I got potential, and my life's worth more than the minimum wage.

Ironically, when he was but a toddler, Jericho’s mother, Stevie, had written an untitled sketch for a short story about a night watchman in a jewelry store. It began with the sentence, “He was a lonely man.” Divorced and dejected, the unnamed main character in Stevie’s story eventually encountered a burglar breaking into the jewelry store, and pulling his gun, he deliberately put the burglar in a position to shoot him. The night watchman died, and “his dying thoughts - not of his past life, his sins and wasted years - only that tomorrow he would be news: his name in the papers at last.”

“He thought differently in his working hours: gave no thought to what might have been, only of how to die. He conjured 100 ways to die...”
~ Stevie Meade; ‘Untitled’

And occasionally Jericho too would fantasize about sacrificing his life in defense of the employees he watched over at night. He simply wanted out. He knew that was a weakness in him, that it was indicative of a weak individual, but he had finally come to accept that about himself: he was an artist who couldn’t prosper, and he was a weak man. ...OK.

Then one June night he peered into a sky where he lost and found himself. It was a sky cluttered with furious clouds; huge, cursing, grey and black clouds that looked like they could begin spitting at a moment’s notice. And between the clouds he saw a shade of blue he’d never viewed before but which he knew; a penetrating blue, one that could be felt. A deep, rich blue that corresponded with the color of his world-weary soul. Jericho had been born with a melancholy mind, but life had caused that blue of mind to darken and then to seep into his soul until it had been unalterably dyed that same hue. Nobody really knew this because he put on quite a front, but at his center – the i of  him – was an unfathomable, aching, electroluminescent blue encased in the pale blue exterior that he allowed the world around him to see.

Everybody’s waiting on something that hasn’t come yet.
~ Tom Petty; ‘You Can Still Change Your Mind’

And when Jericho experienced those palpable blue patches in the night sky and recognized them in himself, he knew he was finished. Finished waiting for God, finished waiting for the revealing of his purpose, finished waiting for Godot, or for Brigitte Bardot. Jericho was done waiting for . . . anything. He had no wife and no children, no one really needed him. And so Jericho made up his mind to break the Sixth Commandment and hope for Divine forgiveness.

He held off until Sunday – the “Lord’s Day” – and then he drove to a grocery store, bought red lipstick and a bottle of red wine; collected the other things he would need, loaded them into his car and then started for Las Vegas. He was working on something big.

Stevie and Jericho’s father, Kenneth, were married at one of those little white chapels on Las Vegas Boulevard, just north of ‘The Strip’. Stevie once told Jericho that she was convinced he had been conceived on the wedding night, at the El Cortez Hotel. She couldn’t prove it, of course, but she said that somehow she just sensed that something was different within her body the following morning.

The idea of concluding everything at the place where it began appealed to Jericho; he thought that was a unique concept. So he drove directly to downtown Las Vegas – it was one hundred and three degrees when he arrived – and checked into the El Cortez Hotel. He told the desk clerk that he was a talent scout for Speedball Records and he was there to see a local band called Tom Trivial And The Dead Ringers. He requested a corner room and paid for a single night’s stay.

The minute he got to the room, Jericho placed the sign around the outside doorknob reading, MAID, Please Have This Room Made Up Soon As Possible. Then he turned on the air-conditioning unit – no reason to die uncomfortably – and went to the bathroom where he wrote on the mirror with the red lipstick, Just couldn't wait around until the last dog was hung. Goodbye, cruel wrold!

Jericho scrawled those two sentences across the mirror, making a conscious effort to overcome his natural tendency to print neatly in block letters. He wanted it to look like it always did in the movies. And he deliberately transposed the letters r and o in the word “world”. It appealed to his unusual sense of humor to know that later, someone somewhere would think: What an idiot! He couldn't even write cliches correctly.

Then Jericho took the lipstick and used it to make a large red dot on the end of his nose, and lines from either end of his mouth, arching upward into an outrageously false smile. Now he looked like a demented circus clown.

Careful to disturb the bedding as little as possible, he eased the pillows out from underneath the sheets and comforter and he stacked them atop each other near the headboard. Pouring himself a glass of wine, Jericho said a prayer to God, thanking Him for the wine and for the sleeping pills and asking His forgiveness for the sin he was about to commit. Then Jericho opened his bottle of 15 milligram Temazepam - prescribed to him by his doctor for sleep-related problems - and he swallowed all 30 capsules with three gulps of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Yeah, Jericho wouldn’t be here when the Trumpet blasted and God finally returned to kick the doors in on His creation, but he hoped that God would give hell to every son-of-a-bitch!

Jericho plugged in his portable compact disc player, put a CD into it, brought up track number four and pressed the “Play” and “Repeat” buttons. The song would play over and over and over until someone in authority finally turned the compact disc player off.

Then he leaned back, resting his head upon that stack of pillows, and closing his eyes, he listened to the introduction of the song – a shimmering, metallic, electric guitar sound.

Then Jericho entertained the thought . . .

Perhaps it wasn't a karmic consequence or a supernatural restriction after all; maybe my ambition far exceeded my talent. ...And then again... maybe I should have tried my hand at music. ...Oh well.

But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.
~ Isaiah 13:21

It was 9:12 AM, Monday, when the day maid put her master key into the lock and opened his door. She stepped inside before hearing the music playing. Then she called out, “Hello? Señor? Señorita? Housekeeping!” She walked slowly, cautiously, into the room and then saw the sleeping man, his head on the stacked-up pillows of the still-made bed. What are those strange red markings on his face? “You want I clean the room?” she asked, nervously inching her way forward.

And the song that emanated from the speakers of the portable compact disc player was this:

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


If you are one of the few individuals who likes my blog “Stuffs”, along with me, you need to thank Bonjour Tristesse of the blogs ‘STUPID BLOG TRICKS’ and ‘BONJOUR TRISTESSE: FOREIGN INDIE AND CULT CINEMA’ for the fact that “Stuffs” is still a livin’, breathin’ blog.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the completely revamped look of ‘Stephen T. McCarthy STUFFS’. Yes, my blog has been redesigned but it wasn’t by design. The only way to save the blog was to upgrade it and alter its template.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened: I had recently been experiencing more than the usual number of ‘Blogger’ bugs, and then when I was attempting to post the blog bit VENICE BEACH, CALIFORNIA: “The Corner Of Ocean Ave. & Linnie Ave.” (Or, “An Ideal Place For Stream O’ Consciousness Experimentation”) I found that the system refused to allow me to post the “Spirit Of Venice, California – Trailer” video at the bottom of my blog bit.

In an ill-advised attempt to correct the problem myself, I began “fooling” around (literally!) by clicking links and messing with my template, hoping something I clicked might correct the problem. Next thing I knew, “STUFFS” was hopelessly fouled up in so many ways I won’t even attempt to describe them all. We’ll just say it was an utterly useless Heap O’ Garbage.

After a day of desperate and futile fumbling, I threw in the towel. I posted a plea for help on Blogger’s “Help” page, and after a period of getting no response, I literally began composing my “Farewell To Y’All” blog bit.

I had several paragrahs of the final “Stuffs” blog bit written when suddenly I received a response; the Cavalry had ridden in to rescue “Stuffs” – and that one-person Cavalry was BONJOUR TRISTESSE.

We’ve all heard the expression “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, and that is a semi-true maxim. But it’s particularly accurate when it’s a techno-retarded old dog like me whose entire knowledge of computer science is this: An ability to “Cut And Paste” and the awarness of what a URL is (although I don’t know what the letters actually stand for).

After multiple back-and-forth comments to each other, and a little bit of experimentation, Bonjour Tristesse single-handedly saved “Stuffs” when I was pretty much resigned to the idea that the blog was a goner!

I don’t intend to blog forever, but I certainly wish to go out on my own terms. And I definitely hope that when I finally am dun bloggin’, all of the work I’ve put into my blog installments over the last few years will remain standing for awhile.

For a couple of days there, it really looked as if “Stuffs” was going to be abandoned as just a pile of junk on the side of the road; the visible aftermath of an Information Superhighway head-on collision with gigantic, alien bugs from cyberspace.

So, again, from me to Bonjour Tristesse, a very big THANK YOU for volunteering your own time to save “Stuffs”!

And from me to my readers: Please consider visiting and “Following” one or both of Bonjour Tristesse’s blogs . . .



A Computer Illiterate but Extremely Grateful . . .

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Monday, September 12, 2011

VENICE BEACH, CALIFORNIA: “The Townhouse Bar” (Or, “How Not To Sell Your Screenplay In Hollywood”)

This is Part 2 Of 2 in my 2-Part series about Venice Beach in Southern California. (Be watching for the next installment in this series, which I will be posting here soon.)

Brother Nappy and I recently paid a visit to our homemegalopolis, Los Angeles. One of the things on my “To Do” list was have a drink at The Townhouse Bar on Venice Beach. If you’ve been paying attention to my blog, then you know that The Townhouse Bar was a principal location in my 1992 screenplay “Billy And Billie”. And if you haven’t been paying attention, then you have missed a whole lotta nuttin’.
At any rate [a-dollar-a-minute for the first 10 minutes, .50 cents per minute thereafter, or an all-day flat rate of $19.95], The Townhouse Bar was such an important part of my screenplay that I consider it to be almost an actual “character” in the story.


[I bought Nappy a Sierra Nevada ale. For me? The "CLASSIC MARTINI", of course, 'cause I gots lotsa class!]
I was fortunate enough and weird enough to grow up not more than a 10-minute bicycle ride from the Venice Beach Boardwalk. To say that I’ve spent a good deal of time there is an understated horse of another color until the cows come home blue in the face. That’s to say that I know the Venice Beach area pretty well and I felt qualified to utilize it in my old screenplay.

“Billy And Billie” is an urban, interracial romance about a drunken and nerdy White man who is a writer-wannabe, and a sassy Black girl who sings Blues and Jazz songs on the Venice Beach Boardwalk for monetary contributions.

[Inside The Townhouse Bar, looking toward the front door.]

[A photo of our great, Old School, story-telling bartender, George. Not sure why he's so out-of-focus. Maybe he'd been drinking. Behind George is a chalkboard upon which was written that classic W.C. Fields quote: "Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water."]
Back when I was attempting to shop this script around Hollywood in 1992, I came up with what I believed was perhaps one of the most original and clever query letter ideas ever.

Below is an example of how it looked.

[Incidentally, this screenplay was copyrighted in ‘92, so don’t even think about trying to rip me off. If you do, I will kill you until you are dead, then I’ll sue your lawyer, violate your dog and walk your wife! And that’s nothing compared to the wrath of evil Doctor Karma which you will suffer after I’m finished with ya.]:

Dear ________ :

The name’s not Hemingway but thanks to the books of Syd Field, Linda Seger and Irwin Blacker, I’ve written a feature-length, romantic drama (with comedy). The 16-hour screenwriting seminar with Richard Walter and 12-hour character development course didn’t hurt either. Structure and format are nailed down!

Putting pencil to paper for the first draft (yes, I’m a dinosaur), the following developed:

He lurches from the bar into the rain; seeking cover, nearly trips over it. What’s this? Passed out – a Black girl, unsheltered. Something’s wrong. She’s dressed too well to be homeless. Sober, he looks the other way and we have no movie. Lucky for us he’s in his cups again and “Help her” the gin in his blood seems to sing. In his arms, four blocks through a downpour to the apartment.

Tomorrow she’ll awaken and that sets him on course to be tongue-lashed, pummelled by thugs, dumped for another man, and goosed by a goose. He will also fall in love and be alive for the first time in 21 years.

Want to know this story? Clip the coupn below, mark the appropriate space (Psst! The correct answer is “YES”) and return in the self-addressed stamped envelope provided.

~ Ol’ Stephen T. McCarthy
1728 Sunset Ave.
Santa Monica, CA. 90405
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

___ YES, Ol’ Stephen, please send the script for my free trial examination. I understand that I am under no obligation and no salesman will visit my door.

___ No, all new writers stink.

___ No, not now, I have a headache.

___ No, your flippant approach should get you run out of Hollywood preceding a red-hot poker. You’ll never write in this town again.

So, how did my query letter work? Well, have you ever seen the movie “Billy And Billie”? (I didn’t think so.)

Actually, no one asked to see the screenplay, but a couple of the recipients did state that they found the query letter entertaining and really enjoyed the originality of it. Now, one might think that the person capable of concocting an original and entertaining query letter like that might also be capable of writing a good screenplay. But that would be to assume that the decision-makers in Hollywood possess intelligence, an eye for talent, and an ability to think rationally.

However, I discovered that Producer/Director/Actor Tony Bill had a production office in Venice and that he was willing to receive unsolicited screenplays, so I sent him “Billy And Billie”. Well, evidently someone at his production office read the story and felt it warranted an interview with the author (that would be me, by the way).

I was called to Tony Bill’s production office and was interviewed by the man himself. An interview that I pretty much blew, and blew deliberately. You see, me being something of an outlaw generally (and a Hollywood outlaw quite specifically) I went into the interview with Mr. Bill holding a bit of a grudge.

It was my belief then (and is my belief still) that what a writer writes ought to sell itself; I resented having to try to use my personality in the interview to help sell the “Billy And Billy” story. My mind-set was basically this: Everything’s on the page. Do you like the story or do you not like it? What has my own personality to do with it?

That may seem unreasonable to you. Why did I not enthusiastically try to verbally sell my screenplay to Tony Bill? Did I not have sufficient personality to sell it?

Ha! Oh, come on! Have you not read anything on this blog? Do you really think I am devoid of personality? Sheesh! I might sit in a corner by myself most of the time, but that’s by preference, not by necessity. When I choose to flip the switch and turn it on, I have personality to burn.

But here’s the thing: I had spent some years trying to establish an acting career. I had done readings for casting directors in which one absolutely MUST sell himself via his personality. I was sick of that. I had finally given up on the acting career and had now turned to writing instead, so that I could sell whatever talent I might have on stacks of paper rather than through the vehicle of whatever personal charisma I might possess.

And now here I was, sitting across from Mr. Tony Bill, my screenplay in his hand, and I was being expected to sell the “Billy And Billie” story by utilizing my personality again. And I simply wasn’t willing to play that game anymore.

And that’s why, when Tony Bill asked me what “Billy And Billie” was about, I literally told him: “Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back again.”

I don’t think Mr. Bill was too turned on by my answer. Ha! And I really don’t blame him for thinking that I was a dimwit. But to my mind, the bottom line was that the story was now its own entity - that it should stand or fall on its own merits - and shouldn’t have needed an assist from me. Read it. Like it? Buy it. Dislike it? Ignore it. End of issue.

I don’t regret what I did. Despite the fact that it’s egregiously missing a 45-second scene that I should have included, I still believe that “Billy And Billie” is a good un-produced movie. And for the record, I know that I'm a loser, but I do not think I am a poor writer. I think I’m just . . . misunderstood.

“Even the losers get lucky sometimes.”
And sometimes they don’t.

Below are a few photos I took of a portion of the Venice canals:



~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement..