Luck: When Opportunity Meets Preparation

Watched an interesting, intriguing and fun flick today ‘The Kid Stays In The Picture.’  The film, and autobiographical book it is taken from, is about Robert Evans.

Now I consider myself a film aficionado. With the caveat that it stops with The Jazz Singer. Love them silent films.

Bob Evans turned Hollywood around, but especially kept Paramount from closing forever. As a kid growing up in Southern California, movies were everything to me. Every last penny was spent at the theater, even solid silver dimes from my coin collection. Hell, I was very active in local theater companies back from the age of 11.

Eye on the 1920’s, a kid’s version of being discovered, and the allure of a Hollywood long gone.

Turns out I was, looking back, a below-par actress. On the best day. Luckily the piano and tenor sax saved me from utter obscurity later on. Especially the voice-overs and commercials a few years ago! Or not. Don’t see my name on IMDb.

Just realized something ironic: my last job, prior to being an Executive Ne’er Do Well Trying to Survive on SSD In Reno, was as an Executive Producer for Warner Brothers (The WB, then The CW). Heh. Never thought about that until now.

Anyway, the beginning of the film and Evans’  life in ‘the industry’ begins with his meeting Norma Shearer at the Beverly Hills Hotel pool. She saw him and asked if he would play Irving Thalberg (her late husband) in a film. It was Man Of A 1000 Faces, a cinematic biography of Lon Chaney.

If you don’t know who Thalberg, Shearer or worse Chaney was, then stop reading right here.
Oh alright I’ll wait while you Google.
And get off my lawn you hooligans.

The point of this piece (hello tertiary threads) is that I wasn’t AWARE of Robert Evans’  influence on film. Being an idiot it was a focus on directors, cast and studio. This film melted away a skewed view of thinking, as well as causing me to laugh uncontrollably.

See if it’s available on Netflix, or somehow pops up on TV, which is doubtful. Robert Evans is probably 81 now, but his autobiography is still in print. He is a quite self-effacing writer and funny as hell. According to people who worked with him though… total dickhead. That’s my kind of guy. The man not only made the true change in bringing back audiences to the movies (Rosemary’s Baby and The Godfather for two) but was married seven times.

Fuck I’ve only been married and divorced twice, and get no royalties. –makes sign of  L on forehead-

A final personal note regarding Norma Shearer.

Lived in Long Beach, California  (again) in the early 90’s. My best friend at the time (a fellow musician in our band) lived in a fabulous Deco building,  in a town decorated with them. The Villa Riviera, on Ocean Boulevard. He made friends with the guys who rented (all of the apartments are privately owned now) the penthouse.

Norma Shearer, back in the 20’s, had rented the penthouse. She had contractors build a hidden door and extra apartment which also led to the roof. Verboten to tenants. Even the renters. As if that ever stopped any of us reading this.

I spent many a wonderful night on that roof. The view of beautiful coastline, city lights, the feeling of being amongst friends and of course… my childhood dreams.

 ~Miss R

That’s the way to do the Varsity Drag

the Ruling Class

Just finished watching The Ruling Class, a gem of a film, and shockingly not well-known. Amazing dialogue, satire, bizarre brief yet wonderful musical bits. It is among Peter O’Toole’s best performances. He was nominated for an Oscar. From this there is a soundtrack in my head consisting of The Varsity Drag, Dem Bones and My Blue Heaven .

This is the first time I’d seen it in a good 20 years. Thank you Netflix. Forgotten that one of the female leads was played by the same actress who played Harold’s mother in Harold and Maude. Both were made about the same time, during the Vietnam War. And both were made as indictments of the established order. I believe that MASH was also made the same year.

The Ruling Class leads the viewer to believe that this is a twisted and dark comedy, but as we say at Spanky’s on the playa at Burning Man.

Spanky's Wine Bar at Burning Man

”This will all end in tears.’

We say it as a joke whenever a clusterfuck breaks out.

This is one of the few movies I can watch without tears dropping down my face at the ending. Hell, I’ve cried at the endings of fucking Doctor Who episodes. The Demon Seed admits she has too but the little wench laughs at me when she catches me weeping on the phone, asking why she didn’t warn me. Yes we are both geeks. What about it? You don’t believe me, just step outside and see me baby.

Hey, I was bi-polar before being bi-polar was cool. Not to mention I was a Punk before you were a Punk

Heh. betcha I got you with Fee Waybill and crew. Well pray, really really hard.
To me.
I may bestow  a bit of the title tune on you as well.

Hmmm other firsts? Listed in no particular order but as an exercise to boost the current rock I’m holding for Sisyphus. He had to grab a coffee. Fucker’s been gone over six months.

First student at my college to enroll and begin at age 15 (and the school had already been around for 150 years by then).

First woman in my town to have a tattoo. That was 18 years ago and I don’t want another one. Who the hell Doesn’t have one these days?

First woman my age (45) to have a tongue piercing in the vicinity. Was late to the nipple piercing action but ooh it hurt so good. And feels absolutely delicious now. Too bad gravity has had it’s way with my boobs.

First started my musical ‘career’ playing Gay bars; standards,show tunes and ragtimte. The Whiskey and Madame Wongs came later playing in a punk band. Because I lied about my age. I was 16 not 21. So all you owners that stiffed me way back when? Because all you saw was a girl with big tits standing at an Amazon stature of 5’2″? Go fuck a porcupine you pricks.

First in my family to be the eccentric, but beloved, black sheep and eschew the medical degree deemed proper in our family.
The Demon Seed has declared her intention to get a PhD is psychology. Way cheaper than med school. Her first choice was psychiatrist. So back to doctors we go.

Now I’m almost 50 and I have is my daughter, and she’s going way next month to college, and memories.  And a big-ass concert grand piano.

And perhaps this is why I didn’t cry at the end of The Ruling Class.

Everything changes. Transforms. But mostly sneaks away quietly. It has become so difficult to fight the established order.

And I’m scared as hell. And the current point in life’s curve should probably have had me already hospitalized.

Maybe coming to terms with it all is beginning. And it all started a long time ago. In college.  Fighting back against anything and everything….except Music.

~Miss R

Now go and beg, borrow steal or Netflix ‘The Ruling Class.’ You’ll thank me. And perhaps send a cash tip!

&$*(!!@&*!!

First off where the hell is my music stand?
Do you have it? Are you hiding it from me? You swine.
It attaches to the back of the DX-7 and holds sheet music, or manuscript paper, or anything book-like for that matter.
I know it was in the last house but damned if I can find it now when it would be helpful.

Secondly I have become re-enamored of the dumbass lolcats. I Can Haz Cheezburger indeed.
I ignored this site for over a year and now I’m amused again.
Must be a medication adjustment problem.
Please kill me.

So today I’m a spaz-fest with copies of my lyrics and a sheet of manuscript paper (with the melody) lying ON the keyboards. Hell on the keys actually.
Playing two synths, singing and attempting to read both sheets at one time by simultaneously peeking around/below/above the mic has given my shoulders and neck a permanent crick.
We are not amused.

So I’m really seriously swear-to-goddess working hard on three of my originals right now. Have decided that playing live again is imperative. It’s given me a purpose. Not a porpoise though because that would be too tasty and outside the current budget.

You’d think it would be easy to remember a melody and lyrics that you had written yourself. As opposed to memorizing another person’s music.
But noooooooooo.
What the hell is up with that?

Well time to consider dinner.
Thanks to the government food stamps I have a choice of the extra sharp cheddar cheese and Carr’s crackers, apples, fresh shrimp, rich creamy potato leek soup or…. cereal!
Gluten-free ‘ya know.

I’m pretty sure that the people at social services were intending me to have Chef Boyardee tonight but fuck ’em if they can’t take an eccentric.

It’s Friday Night babe so let’s boogie down to the stereo at maximum volume, then some HBO and a game of poker with everyone’s favorite cheatin’-opposable-thumbed-feline Lizzie Borden.

Play on.

~Miss R

Currently listening:
The Nightfly
By: Donald Fagen
Release date: 25 October, 1990

Instant Karma

This piece starts out so normally and then digresses into a trip down musical memory fucking lane. This blog is for me. The only thing missing is pics from those days. The scanner is currently kaput.
You were warned. It’s not too late to turn back ‘ya know.
Fear of losing everything has made me contemplate the past. Most importantly… did I make a difference to anyone?
The only way I know to make a difference is via music.

Continue reading

The Knabe Grand

Been playing the piano for almost two hours. My dad’s Knabe concert grand needs to be tuned, as well as played. He rarely sits at the keyboard anymore.

First I trifled around with some blues riffs, a couple of Scott Joplin pieces and then dug around the bookshelf for some sheet music.
I miss my fucking piano. You can’t play ragtime or complex classical pieces on a synth without 88 keys.

Usually when visiting I’ll pack a cache of my own music; nothing sounds a fabulous to a pianist as music played on a grand. Hell, nothing feels as fabulous either.
This trip I forgot to pack any music. Also forgot jewelry, a comb, my marbles and anything useful.
Yet the suitcase was still full when I closed it.

So in my rifling I find some old books that were mine as a student. Holy shit! The old bat who was my first piano teacher has left an indelible mark after all. Her bright red notations still exist even as she has been worm food for probably 25 years.
Funny strange. So of course this compelled me to play through some Bach Inventions and a few Beethoven and Chopin Etudes and Bagatelles.

Then I found an old book of Broadway tunes and an even older book of Billy Joel music. Oh god I must have purchased this while in high school. Obviously I’d left these compilations behind during various forays to the homestead.
Jesus. I can still mangle through Root Beer Rag! Not quite sure how that happened since it’s been at least a year since I last tried to play it.
The poor bastard singing opera earlier must be having a fit of apoplexy about now, since the windows are open and the Knabe sits besides two open French doors.

Singing and playing Suburban Showdown brought a crack to the vocals and tears to my eyes. Had forgotten the line in there “I only came to say good-bye and I won’t be back again…”

It’s already occurred to me that this is the real reason I’m here. To say good-bye to my family. I know it intuitively and have known since this trip was discussed.
My father’s 75th birthday is in early November and there is a party planned.
It’s doubtful I’ll be here for that so I’m grateful for this week to spend time with him.
We’ll go to AA meetings together, and out to dinner, and he’ll be his usual quiet strangely neurotic self.

Tomorrow after being poked and prodded and slid through machines that go bzzzzzzz and clunnnnnnk we’ll come back up the mountain. The next day I’ve an appointment with a different doc for blood tests and medication reviews.
I’ll surely be pulled off the Xanax. Fuck. Well, seeing as how it’s non-addictive and I’ve been on it for 10 years there’s no way that anyone would be concerned about that.

Will probably be taken off of every damned med that is currently coursing through my body and these will be replaced with different meds to course through said vessel. Actually there aren’t that many in my bloodstream these days. Went off a few myself (betcha didn’t know I was an MD) but have had no replacements now that the insurance went bye-bye. Not that this could have anything to do with the past two months of malaise, depression and suicidal ideation.

Quit smoking again and have been on the fucking Commit again for two days. There’s supposed to be a new trial med to help get off nicotine. Unfortunately the doc responsible for this is in the hospital. Argh.
It would be nice to ditch that final addiction before leaving this place.
The current medication prescribed to wean a smoker of the coffin nails is Wellbutrin.
Can’t take that one. It throws me into a manic phase; which while great for weight loss is bad on the teeth. Grinding one’s molars while staring at the television until dawn is not an especially pleasing way to pass the time. No siree.

Okay it’s back downstairs. Am going to try and concentrate for 10 minutes and read.
It could happen.
Besides, the phone has rung twice and every time I’ve hustled down the spiral staircase to find the damned phone the caller has already hung up.
Bastards say I.

~miss r
 

DX-7s injuries and other nonsense

As if it’s not enough that I’m covered head to toe in bruises from bouncing up and down on a trampoline (don’t try this at home kids. Not if you’re over 40) I just fell off my back steps onto rough, dirty and broken-up asphalt.
Now I am also covered in scrapes and blood.
Well, the blood is just kind of seeping at this point. I also ruined one of my very favorite books as it was in my hand at the time. It’s now bound in shredded paper and blood splatter.
Or as Henry Lee would say… brud spratter.
And no I have not been drinking. Just brain drained from a day at this computer.
Fuckit

Other than that today has consisted of a walk and much swearing over Tinfoil Hat Client Guy and his fucking Winchester Mystery Website.
This goddamned thing will NEVER be done. Writing the code isn’t bad; it’s the research and trying to find catalog numbers which don’t match up from one source to another.

The best thing today was getting my DX-7 back… in working condition. Ahhhhhh that IS nice.
TK has been working on it for months, and it had been at his house in various states of disrepair.
The sad part was that with the keyboard TK also dropped off every possible personal item of mine which remained at his place.
Hell I already knew it was over but gah that was like ripping open a newly sewn incision. Perhaps the fall this afternoon and resulting scrapes and cuts are the physical manifestation. Or perhaps I just indulge in too many metaphors.

I did receive a Fabulous Parting Gift though! TK made me a copy of the newest Donald Fagan CD (which rocks and I’ve been listening to it all day), along with a copy of Q’s Jook Joint; a Quincy Jones CD with every possible fine musician playing on it.

“So Rachael Thanks for playing my Game! We’re sorry you’re such a complete Loser but here’s a copy of our Home Game! Good Luck in all your future endeavors.”

I exit. Stage right.

Alright where the hell did I put the Neosporin and Band-aids?

~miss r

Currently listening :
Morph the Cat
By Donald Fagen
Release date: By 14 March, 2006

On Elton John, Halloween, and Being a Pianist


So I just finished working on the Elton John’s Funeral For a Friend.

Every Halloween I try to have this polished up. I first played the piece soon after Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was released.
Like every other piano-playing kid in those days I waited for the music books to be released after the albums.
After running through the sheet music a musician will begin to add their own flourishes and touches. Everything from additional chords in a segue, to changes in tempo and dynamics. Never underestimate the joy in adding an additional verse done strictly as an improvised solo either.
There are three taboos to fucking with another composer’s music:
1. Classical Music. You play it as written unless you’re screwing around and it’s expected by the audience.
2. Ragtime Music. Um, I occasionally break this rule and there is a lot of controversy about this between devotees of this rather obscure genre. Don’t tell.
3. Funeral For a Friend by Elton John. I have always played this as written by Elton. Maybe because it’s the best juxtaposition of classical and rock out there. Even all these years later I’ll pull out the raggedy-ass copy of the sheet music about 2 weeks before Halloween.
Other than these 3 exceptions I’ll do a read though of the piece as written and almost immediately begin inserting my own touches.

This year is different. I was not physically able to work on Funeral for Friend until two days ago. Believe it or not it is a demanding piece. The beginning is quite simple but by the change to Love Lies Bleeding I’m beating the hell out of the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. Or Ben Folds. Or Elton John.

There is NOTHING as satisfying as playing a difficult, kick-ass piano piece for an audience that appreciates it.
Not even good sex can rival the feeling.
I can’t believe I fucking wrote that either. Clearly being confined to the house for three weeks is destroying my brain.

Well, Funeral for a Friend now sounds great as ever on the upright here at the apartment. Am sure that the poor neighbors would agree. My hands are killing me too.
Ran through some other stuff I’m used to playing at Halloween shows. You know, Werewolves of London, Creep, and a few Chopin nocturnes that will inspire suicidal feelings in the most jaded of humans.
Unfortunately there is no one to listen except for myself and of course the neighbors.

I’m an egomaniac with low self-esteem. A paradox with a piano and no outlet for my musical expression.

Yes it is satisfying playing music for my own edification. It is far MORE satisfying to play for an audience.
Despite butterflies, fear, inevitable wrong chords and notes, I miss it. Even at Halloween. Maybe especially now.
Every band I’ve ever played in scheduled a Halloween gig. During the years I played solo I always made sure there were plenty of holiday tunes in the repertoire for that most wonderful of evenings. God I can remember throwing in the Addams Family a few times when playing piano bars in the LA area. I’ve a knack for picking up TV show themes and transforming them into rag versions of their former selves. Yet another useless yet bizarre talent to my credit.

I guess the point of this blog is to say I’m glad to have Funeral sounding great, but disconsolate being unable to share it.

This year Halloween in Reno is bittersweet. Memories…
Elaborate and fabulous parties I would throw in Long Beach, the parades in Greenwich Village while living in NYC, the many years playing riotous and always fun Halloween shows in various bands on both coasts, seeing Oingo Boingo play their annual Halloween show in LA.

If you’re driving though my neighborhood this week you’re not hearing things. You probably do hear Funeral for a Friend coming in through the car window. You might be surprised at the passion, sadness and strength in the notes.

~Miss R