Monday, February 6, 2012


At the tail of October and the snout of November, I read a couple of borrowed biographies about Rock stars Warren Zevon and Tom Petty. After finishing and returning them, I immediately went back to my literary métier: tomes about Communist subversion and espionage. (I’ll bet you didn’t think I knew words like that, huh? I’m referring to “métier”, not “subversion” and “espionage”.)

Below are some excerpts I copied from the biographies, as I found these interesting for this or that reason, or for one thing or another.

I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD: The Dirty Life And Times Of Warren Zevon’ by Crystal Zevon - 2007

I attended one Warren Zevon concert in my life. As it turns out, I attended the very concert at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles that was described in the following passages. I know this because my ol’ pal General Poohregard, who attended the concert with me, did an online search and discovered that Warren Zevon only played but one show at L.A.’s Wiltern Theater.

By 1987, I had seen SOoooo many music shows that I suppose I’d become a bit jaded. Although Pooh recalls it as being a pretty good, hard-rockin’ performance, I’ve always remembered it as basically “just another Rock concert”.

According to the book, however, everyone (except me, apparently) thought it was a very memorable Zevon performance:

Near the end of the Sentimental Hygiene tour, Warren played the Wiltern in Los Angeles. Everyone was there. People I hadn’t seen in years. Warren blew us all away. He was in control of the music and he commanded his audience. Ariel and I were sitting with Warren’s dad, and J.D. Souther was right behind us.

I was jumping to my feet, shouting, whistling, acting like a fan. What I also remember is that there was no alcohol backstage, so I kept making trips to the theater lobby to guzzle glasses of wine. That night marked the beginning of the end of my drinking. I didn’t get sober for another six months, but seeing him onstage, I knew sober was the way to live.

November 20, 1987
…The Wiltern. Nice theater. Nervous. Dad and his friend, Milt, arrived about 7:00. Then, Merle and Beth. When I came out of the shower, there were roses from Michael Ironside. Andy was nervous, too. The nervousness worked for us – the show felt great. The kids were there with their friends, Crystal & Yvonne, LeRoy, Jimmy, Stephan, J.D., Duncan & his wife – it was quite a night. It was a great night.

OK, now this next passage I found kinda humorous in a ridiculous sorta way:

March 29. 1999
…Tom Waits called: Stu told him I knew vocal exercises that help hoarseness (the ones J.D. Souther taught me long distance a decade ago). “Are you sick?” I asked. “Define sick.” I said, “Mormon fever that keeps you home from school.” He said he’d gotten a cortisone shot – “Where?” “Austin.” And so on. I told him I just gave ‘em a shit show – “I get a tan and hold back.”

So, let’s see if I’ve got this right: Tom Waits was concerned that his voice was hoarse? The guy who sings ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues’ thought some of his fans might notice that his voice wasn’t as smoothly polished as it usually is?

Tom Waits - Tom Traubert's Blues (Lyrics)

April 15, 1998
…Saw “The Spanish Prisoner” with Ariel & Ben. It was wonderful. I turned to Ariel at one point and said, “This is the best movie I’ve ever seen.”

Uh... y’all ever seen ‘The Spanish Prisoner’? It’s a movie that definitely had some potential, and my brother Nappy and I did get caught up in it for awhile. But by the end of the story we had found some holes in the plot that were big enough to drive a Rock star’s limousine through. If it was the best movie Warren had ever seen, then either he had not seen many movies or he wasn’t nearly as brilliant as everyone who knew him says he was. (And, incidentally, Warren was a big film fan - so it’s the latter rather than the former.)

OK, these next passages kind of blew me away . . .

Some of you may recall my blog bit titled ‘ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.A.’ In that bit I wrote the following:

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.

Hokey-Smoke & Hoo-Wee! Gimme an “A” in Intuition! . . .

Warren was incredibly jealous. He thought every man on the street was after me, and once we started drinking, it always became my fault. We lived walking distance from our favorite restaurant, El Coyote. The main attractions in those days were the margaritas, the green corn tamales, and the price. One night we were at El Coyote, and the subject of my past relationship with Waddy came up. The fight lasted for days. Warren was convinced that I was sleeping with Waddy, who lived about three blocks away. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I told him he should just leave.

April 26, 1975
…Torrance Shopping Center huge & teeming like a skyless future city. Lots of people here & excited for Billy Jack: Waddy sang “Most Likely You Go Your Way, etc,” & “Tumbling Dice.” Place did have a pub with Heinekens on tap, so drank plenty. $600. check. Took Crystal to El Coyote.

Based on those passages above, I’d be willing to bet a Dairy Queen Blizzard that when Warren wrote that line – “all the salty margaritas in Los Angeles, I’m gonna drink ‘em up – he had El Coyote margaritas in mind... just like I always have when hearing it sung!

[Inside the El Coyote bar, Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles.]

[All the salty margaritas at El Coyote, I'm gonna drink 'em up.]

I was sitting in the Hollywood Hawaiin Hotel
I was listening to the air conditioner hum
It went Hmmm – mmmmm- mmmmm...
~ ‘Desperados Under The Eaves’ by Warren Zevon

One night he [Warren Zevon] ended up at the Hollywood Hawaiian motel somewhere around Gower and Yucca. He was there for a while, I mean, maybe two or three weeks, and he couldn’t check out because he didn’t have the money to pay the bill. So, one night, I got my mother’s station wagon and pulled it into the alley. He threw all his stuff out the bathroom window and we escaped without paying.

Years later, when Warren got sober, he actually went back there to pay the bill. Of course, by then he’d written and recorded “Desperados Under The Eaves”, so they settled for a few copies of his ‘Warren Zevon’ album.

David Marks, incidentally, was an original Beach Boy when that band initially formed. And that passage above calls into question whether or not the Princess Grace Apartments at Yucca and Grace was indeed formerly known as the Hollywood Hawaiian Motel, as reported in Art Fein’s book ‘L.A. Musical History Tour’ and repeated in my blog bit ‘ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.A.’

My Nephew helped me locate the Princess Grace Apartments at ‘Google Map’ to determine if there is an alley that runs adjacent to it. The view was inconclusive, but if there was an alley, what’s left of it today is very narrow and is hardly even worthy of the name “Alley”.

The Hollywood intersections of Yucca & Grace and Yucca & Gower are separated by only six blocks, so it is possible that all those years later, Marks’ memory missed the mark by a mere six slim streets. Who can say whose account we should take a-literally?

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

25 & 26 - HOWARD KAYLAN:
…I wasn’t stable at all, and neither was he [Warren Zevon]. We would drink red wine in the afternoon, we would take acid, we would smoke bongs, and then we would start walking down to Sunset Boulevard.

We wound up using as a hangout Pioneer Chicken Stand on Sunset Boulevard, which was a notorious bad fast food place that caters pretty much to twenty-four-hour biker, hooker, and dealer servicing. But either we didn’t care, or we were just too high to notice.

This too raises some questions. As I wrote in ‘ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.A.’, there was at one time a Pioneer Chicken stand on Alvarado Street, in the parking lot of where the Vons supermarket is located today. That is just a couple blocks from Echo Park. As a youngster in the early 1970s, I passed the chicken stand many times while en route to Dodger Stadium with my Grandfather.

Warren Zevon HAD to be aware of the Pioneer Chicken stand on Alvarado because it was only a block or two north of the Sunset Boulevard ‘Burrito King’ where he used to eat. However, based on Howard Kaylan’s reminiscences, it seems Warren had a more intimate knowledge of a Sunset Boulevard Pioneer Chicken stand – one I don’t specifically recall.

One wonders why Zevon didn’t sing “He hangs out down on Sunset Boulevard by the Pioneer Chicken stand”, since ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘Alvarado Street’ both contain five syllables.

The only answer I can think of is this: Sunset Blvd. is a very long street that stretches from the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles to the ocean, where it terminates at the Pacific Coast Highway. But most people unfamilar with L.A. don’t associate the name Sunset Blvd. with the grimy, graffitied downtown and Echo Park areas; rather, most people think of Sunset Blvd. as a place loaded with glitzy nightclubs and strolling celebrities. (And, yes, it’s that too.)

Did Warren mention the Pioneer Chicken stand on Alvarado Street, rather than the run-down, lowlife Pioneer stand on Sunset Blvd. (which he was more familiar with) only because the name ‘Sunset Boulevard’ would have betrayed the grungy, dangerous word-picture he was attempting to paint in the minds of non-Angeleno record buyers?

Elmer started in on Warren. “So, Warren, ya met manual yet?” I’m so naïve, I actually thought he was referring to a person until Bop [Warren’s grandfather] stood up, looked at Warren and me, and said, “If you want to leave now, we’ll understand.” Warren got up to go, but I put my hand on his leg and we finished dinner.

Apparently I’m still as “naïve” as Crystal was then. Does anybody know what “manual” refers to here? Is that a euphemism for some sex act or something?

Mama couldn't be persuaded
When they pleaded with her,
"Daughter, don't marry that gamblin' man."

Gambler tried to be a family man
Though it didn't suit his style
He thought he had him a winning combination
So he took us where the stakes were high

Her parents warned her, tried to reason with her
Never kept their disappointment hid
They all went to pieces when the bad luck hit
Stuck in the middle, I was the kid
~ ‘Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded’ by Warren Zevon

…One night Don, Karen, Warren, and I went downtown [Las Vegas] to gamble. Warren didn’t gamble, but he cheered Don on when he rolled snake eyes at the craps table. He’d bet conservatively, but after a couple more good rolls, he upped his stakes. He couldn’t lose. Finally, Don scooped up his chips and we left. We were all drunk on luck and Don split his winnings with us. When we got back to our room [at the Landmark Hotel], Warren talked about his childhood and we watched the sun come up and held on to each other knowing how much we had to lose. Or gain. That night, he scrawled the beginnings of a new song called “Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded” on the hotel stationery.

I have never been able to listen to ‘Mama Couldn’t Be Persuaded’ without thinking of my parents: Pa was always a gamblin’ man – ‘The Racing Form’, his daily newspaper – and my Ma married him in Las Vegas, where I was probably conceived. Many’s the time I went to Vegas with my Pa, watched him gamble at the tables, drank with him at the bars [The Landmark, The Fremont, The Mint], and learned from him how to play the horses.

And then to read that Warren actually began to compose that song while staying in Vegas at The Landmark, it’s too much! No wonder the eponymous ‘Warren Zevon’ album has always felt to me like it was my own personal musical statement!

…When I said that Warren Oates was in my favorite movie, a riotous exchange of lines from “Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia” ensued; one of his [Dwight Yoakam’s] favorites also. Dwight’s great.

Have you ever seen Sam Peckinpah’s movie ‘Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia’?

It could have been titled ‘Show Me The Breasts Of Isela Vega'.


I found this really surprising . . .

Page 288 – Tom Petty:
“I love the ukulele. You can’t be sad and play the ukulele. It always brings a smile into the room.”

Petty used a ukulele in the song 'The Man Who Loves Women'.

Now this will seem a bit insane but I read the book about Tom Petty solely in the hope that it would reveal where his ‘Hard Promises’ album cover photograph was taken.

‘Hard Promises’ is my favorite Tom Petty album and I had been wondering from the time I purchased that Licorice Pizza in 1981 where the cover shot was taken. I had noticed that Petty appeared to be in a Mexican record store and the sign on one wooden crate says “California”, so I guessed it was probably somewhere in Los Angeles.

There were a couple of record stores geared toward Hispanic customers in the neighborhood where I grew up and so I wondered if Petty might have been photographed in one of them.

The answer came kind of late in the book and in the form of a photograph caption. There was an alternative picture of Petty taken in the same record store during the same album cover photography session and the caption said that the shots had been taken in a downtown L.A. record shop in 1981.

Ah-ha! That makes sense because I knew that there were a few Hispanic record stores in downtown L.A. that I myself had browsed through from time to time over the years. The odds are that at one time or another I stood in that same record store represented on the ‘Hard Promises’ album cover. Cool! Let’s hear it for Menudo, Freddy Fender and Los Texas Tornados!

Texas Tornados on Austin City Limits


FUHGEDDABOUDIT - The Official Way To Write It:

So I found myself at the Christown AMF bowling alley and waiting for my ol’ girlfriend to finish her frame – she’s in the ‘Over-70-Bowling-League’. (Well, losers can’t be choosers!) While waiting for the dog to roll her wheelchair up to the line and roll her last balls into the gutter, I decided to have a glass of Grand Marnier at the bar.

While nursing my GraMar I was watching the game show ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ which just happened to be on one of the boob tubes in the bar/off-track betting parlor.

At one point a question was asked and answered about some official city signs that read “Leaving Brooklyn. Fuhgeddaboudit.”

This caught me by surprise because I’d never known there were actual signs proudly displaying that slang expression. So I did a little Google searching when I got home and discovered that not only do four of the signs exist, but that I had always instinctively written that slang expression letter-for-letter perfectly.

According to the Internet, the signs are found at:

Gowanus Expressway approaching the Verazzano
BQE approaching the Kosciuczko Bridge
Belt Parkway near the Queens border, and
Belt Parkway, ramp to the Verazzano

Naturally, I was reminded of the time someone said the following to me:

Do me a favor, though - stop using "fuhgeddaboudit." Without any Italian in ya, youze just don't say it right, and it make my ears hurt. In fact when ya types it, it makes my eyes hurt.

In other words, the person was implying that I didn’t butcher English properly - that I was speaking and writing bad English incorrectly. But I found out much later that - according to the Brooklynites themselves - I was butchering it just right.

I may not have “Clue One” about how to cook Steak Pizzaiola, but I am at least capable of throwing together an Italian Slangwich.

Ukulelely Yours . . .

~ 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.


YeamieWaffles said...

Tom Petty is an awesome talent to say the very least man, reading this excerpt really made me year to read the whole thing, what an interesting man.

Em-Musing said...

Great stuff. And don't feel bad for not saying fuhgeddaboudid with the right accent...I'm from New York, also a voiceover talent who up until recently lived in OH) and a client hired me to read a script with a NY accent...but then said I didn't have the right accent. Huh?

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Yeah, it was worth reading. Gave plenty of insight into Petty's background and how he came to start a music career; how he puts a song together, etc.

There are certainly more "important" books out there, but having previously read most of 'em, I figured I was entitled to rest my poor ol' brain a bit with something lite and entertaining.

Thanks! Glad ya enjoyed it.

>>...a client hired me to read a script with a NY accent...but then said I didn't have the right accent. Huh?

Well, he or she may have been onto something: I noticed you don't type with a N.Y. accent either! Had you not said you were a New Yorker I never would have guessed it based on what you wrote.

Have you ever seen the movie 'Hollywood Shuffle'? I'm reminded of that... A scene in which a Black actor was told he wasn't acting "Black enough". Ha! Classic stuffs!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

mousiemarc said...


Missed Periods said...

Pretty cool that the book answered your burning Tom Petty album question. There used to be a record store named Licorice Pizza by my house in Orange County. Did they have them in LA too?

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Yep, they sure did. In fact, I bought Warren Zevon's 'Excitable Boy' album at a Licorice Pizza on Wilshire Blvd., pretty much on the border of Santa Monica/West L.A.

The reason I can remember that is because the store was advertising this special offer: They were so sure everyone would like it that they promised to give your money back if you didn't. The customer could just return 'Excitable Boy' and say, "I didn't like it", and get the full purchase price refunded to them.

I didn't return mine.

Licorice Pizza was not a HUGE record store chain, but it was probably the third biggest after Wherehouse and Tower.

Where in Orange County did you live? I lived in "The O.C." until the Summer of '69. I was in Westminster and then Garden Grove.

Of course, when I lived there it wasn't called "The O.C.". It was more likely to be called "The White Trash Capital Of California, South Of Bakersfield". Ha!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

farawayeyes said...

Love Tom Petty - wish you would have told us more about HIM. (Guess I need to read the book) Like Zevon's music BUT ...

Accents and city slang - don't even get me started.

What's not to love about the 'Mexican Polka'

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Musically, I like Petty better'n Zevon, but lyrically he's not even remotely close to being in the latter's league.

Of course neither of them is a good man like Benny.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Sheboyganboy 6 said...

You link to lots of interesting Stuffs. Now why was there no link to THIS line:
‘Show Me The Breasts Of Isela Vega'.

Another interesting voyage where the streets of LA meeting the lyrics of Angelinos. Your mind makes notations from 25 years before or more, then connects the dots decades later. Then you tell us, and it is, well... interesting.

You know that Tom Petty is your and my meeting point on music. Never liked the Uke, though!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>...Now why was there no link to THIS line: ‘Show Me The Breasts Of Isela Vega'.

You literally made me "laugh out loud"! Spoken like a true "dudeguy".

>>...You know that Tom Petty is your and my meeting point on music. Never liked the Uke, though!

Yeah. And I agree with you. That's why I found Petty's remarks so surprising. I mean, REALLY? He loves the ukulele? Hey, you know I sincerely have a soft spot in my heart for Tiny Tim, but I told him he has to leave his uke outside!

It seems to me that the only people who could love the ukulele would likely also be the only people who could love the bagpipes. Gah! DOUBLE-GAH!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Six said...

GAH! is right!

It isn't that I don't like ANY petite stringed instruments. I actually own an antique mandolin that was my aunt's. It was made in 1923 and it sounds cool! I love bluegrass music, and like the use of the mandolin in rock occasionally, such as Rod Steward did in the early 70s. I like the lute, too.

But the uke really can only be strummed and seems to just be accompaniment to a voice. At least, I've never seen one "picked". "Nice ukelele solo, Waylon." Ha.

My son-in-law bought a uke (without consulting me, of course), and - although I don't question his manhood - it DID give me pause to reflect!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Ha!-Ha! Yeah, man, I agree with EVERYTHING in your comment. I don't mind those other micro-instruments either. But the ukulele - it's just SO high-pitched, and despite the fact that it does have a fretboard, making the forming of a variety of chords possible, every chord sounds almost identical to me because they're just so "stepped-on-a-cat's-tail"-sounding.

I think, to be honest, the ukulele always sounds like it is making either Chord #1 or Chord #2, and that's all! I can hear a slight change in pitch when different chords are strummed but regardless of the number of chords, it always sounds to me like:




~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Missed Periods said...

I grew up in Anaheim Hills. The Licorice Pizza was in Orange on Tustin Ave. My mom was an aerobics instructor and used to get all her 45s there.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Ah, alright! I know where that is. You and I had pretty much the same stomping grounds. But, of course, by the time you were stompin' 'em, I was already stompin' some grounds elsewhere.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'