31 July 2012

A Horny Woman in a Baptist Church Choir

Johnny Walters drove my '68 Dodge Charger into the back of an Army deuce and half legally parked on Butner Road. Walters was stoned to the bejesus and, like any trusting and brain dead Private First Class, I gave him my car to make a lunch run to the McDonalds just off post.

Looking for a replacement, I found a Porsche 356C for $5,000. A great deal and God knows the bullet I dodged. Thankfully, the Ft Bragg Credit Union refused to fiance anything older than 8years. I got a tip from a buddy in Public Affairs that a civilian he worked with was selling a 1977 Fiat X1/9. That's the bullet that didn't miss.

The credit union happily financed the car with as many months as I had left in the Army. Major improvements to the car's performance were attended to immediately. Cocoa mats, an X1/9 reflective strip across the top of the windshield and a Fiat gear shift knob. I found a crazy Italian mechanic who had worked at Ferrari in Italy. He and I became very close.

I put a Pioneer Super Tuner Cassette in the dash and since there wasn't anyplace big enough to mount 6"x9" Jensen tri-axles, I just stuffed 'em behind the seats. Ultravox, Fleetwood Mac, Kool and the Gang, Boston, The Bee Gees, Rod Stewart and KC & The Sunshine Band cassettes were all slotted in the fake red velvet interior of a fake leather brief case stuck in the spare tire well behind the passenger seat.

It wasn't what you'd call a popular car with the ladies. Certainly not in Fayettville where Camaros and Trans Ams ruled the day. Still, it did get noticed but almost never in a good way. Less than five minutes from Ft Bragg and you'd easily travel back in time to 1860. I was scared shitless on more than one occasion. And I was white.

My biggest concern was the car breaking down. Which it did. A lot. Each time I picked it up from the shop, I'd swear I was gonna put a For Sale on it. And each time I drove from the shop, I fell in love with it all over again. It wasn't fast but it handled like a horny woman in a Baptist Church choir. Confident, firm footed, loud and tight.

I went back to college after the Army. I'm not sure if it was the crazy Italian mechanic or my living on the G.I. Bill, but it soon became too much to keep up with. No one wanted to work on a mid-engine car and if they did... a pound of flesh was a bargain.

The tape deck was stolen. Anti freeze leaked over the cocoa mats. I learned Italian from the fuse box. Finally, there were signs of a coastal Florida cancer. Rust. It was everywhere. But it made it, just, through college. I sold it for $500 to a Cuban mechanic and spent $99 on a one way ticket to Newark on People's Express.

Sure it broke. And some folks thought I was a hair dresser for owning one. But, you know what? I wish I'd gone to hair dressing school. You know how much you can make in NYC cutting women's hair?

30 July 2012

American Gigolo Sunglasses

I found these sunglasses in a Chicago thrift shop for $35. These frames must have been buried deep in my subconscious...under the 450 SL and the desire to learn Norwegian.

Photo: NY Times

I saw American Gigolo in the Spring of 1980 just before getting out of the Army. I left the theater and made a bee line for Coconut's Tapes and Records and picked up the Giorgio Moroder/Blondie soundtrack. And even though my Fiat X1/9 would later be called a "hair dresser's car" by friends in London -- With the top down and Blondie blaring outta my PX Jensen tri-axles -- I was Julian Kaye.

I asked a fellow I know at Paul Stuart if he saw older women buying younger men clothes. He told me he never saw it but did see a lot of older men buying younger men clothes. It's just not what I wanted to hear.

Photo: Clothes on Film blog

There was something about American Gigolo...the photography was all about sex. The sets were all about sex. That black 450SL was all about sex. And Julian was getting paid to have sex with beautiful women. When you're 22 years old... what's not to like?

Somehow these glasses dredged up Julian or Julian dredged up the glasses. Not sure which came first but I finally have a pair of Armani sunglasses. Maybe the SL comes next.

St. Augustine, FL, Summer, 1980 - Photo by DB

But in 1980, you did the best with what you had. Ciao, Tony...

28 July 2012

At Auction: The Perfect Midlife Crisis Porsche

"Who's the U-Boat Commander?"

"It's what you want. It's what every white boy off the lake wants."

"I'd appreciate it, if you'd stop laying these little judgments on me, while you're leaning on your daddy's $40,000 car."

The lot description for the 928 (known for wild interiors) follows with a link to the auction site. I purchased my midlife crisis Audi TT at the Porsche-Audi Exchange in Highland Park, IL. Same dealership two of the film's four 928s were purchased. So I have that going for me.

The Auction House, Profiles in History, has some interesting curio perfect for a guy having a midlife crisis.

Steve McQueen's Heuer Monaco (est. $200,000 - $300,000)

A crew gift Zippo from John Wayne on The Green Berets (est. $300-$500)

My favorite, Michael Corleone's (size 42 - I'm guessing Short) camel hair polo coat from The Godfather Part II (est. $3,000 - $4,000)

"TOM CRUISE “JOEL GOODSEN” SCREEN-USED 1979 PORSCHE 928 FROM RISKY BUSINESS - (Warner Bros., 1983) This 1979 Porsche 928 VIN: 9289201213 features a 5-speed manual transmission, 16-inch offset 5-hole aluminum alloy wheels, a three-spoke steering wheel and a cork on cork leather interior.

The car’s exterior was originally painted green when it arrived to the set and was then painted gold by the production and pressed into use. In making A-rated films of this caliber, the production company always has more than one car on hand to ensure no time is wasted should one of the vehicles break down, become damaged, etc.

There were three driving cars used in the making of the film (plus a gutted “dump car” that plunged into Lake Michigan):

1) a 1981 automatic transmission car fitted with 15-inch “flat-face” 5-hole wheels, cork and brown interior and 4-spoke steering wheel.

2) a 1978 5-speed, with cork, brown and crème interior, rented only for one interior shot when the car was knocked out of gear by Rebecca DeMornay’s character (VIN of this vehicle is unknown).

3) the 1979 5-speed car being offered which enjoyed considerably more screen time than the 1981 automatic.

This 5-speed was shot primarily in driving scenes with wide shots where the whole car was in view, as well as in some of the chase scene with Guido the pimp. The VIN of this 1979 5-speed being offered appears on the production records for the film and, according to a recent in depth documentary on the subject entitled “The Quest for RB928,” producer of Risky Business, Jon Avnet, goes on record to state that the young Tom Cruise learned how to drive a stick (manual transmission) with this very car.

In addition, there are production photos obtained from Avnet showing this car on set with camera rigging as well as images of it being painted and prepped for filming. Following production the car returned to California and was repainted white before being discovered by the producer of “The Quest for RB928” and since returned to its original screen appearance.

Risky Business went on to become one of the biggest cult classics of the 1980s and helped launch the career of superstar Tom Cruise. In addition, the film exposed the Porsche brand to a whole new generation of future buyers. The lesser-used 1981 with the automatic was shipped to Europe following production and its whereabouts are unknown. This 1979 5-speed remains as the only known surviving documentable car which also happens to have the most screen time in this modern classic film.

The car’s odometer reads 102,755 miles and it is in operating condition. This car was on exhibit at the Forney Museum of Transportation in Denver in 2009 and many Porsche enthusiasts have called this the most famous Porsche 928 in the world." Lot # 742, Profiles in History, Hollywood Auction #49

Wish this Harris Tweed jacket of Joel's were up for auction. Guess I'll just have to be patient.

27 July 2012

Cary Grant's Boxers


I remember this film as a kid. I had an instant liking of the Jim Hutton character. It hasn't held up all that well but it's humble and the writing's smart. Using the Tokyo 1964 Summer Olympics as a back drop, it turned out to be Cary Grant's last picture. If Ryan Seacrest bugs the shit out of you..."Walk, Don't Run" is testament to a time when talent came before celebrity.

26 July 2012

I Miss My Enemies

I first saw the magazine, "Soviet Life" (1956-1991) when I was assigned to G-2 Intelligence at XVIII Airborne Corps. G-2 was filled with brilliant officers. A few spoke Russian and had been involved in covert operations behind the Iron Curtain. They were, in my estimation, the most rounded and interesting men and women I ever worked with. Ever.

I was trained in Soviet tactics and weapons at Aberdeen Proving Ground and in turn trained elements of the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions how to kill Soviets and their Warsaw Pact brothers. I also became infatuated with Russia and Russians, as those who study their enemies sometimes do.

"Soviet Life" was a quid pro quo publication for the US propaganda magazine, "Amerika" that was distributed in the Soviet Union and seen, by last count, three people from the Soviet Union. Actually, I've never met anyone from the USSR who saw Amerika magazine. But then, they didn't have to. According to Niall Ferguson, we won the Cold War with blue jeans.

"Like ice melting in the stream- I can't hold on to how I used to be"

I miss "Soviet Life" and, to be honest, I guess I miss having an enemy. You know, without Grendel, Beowulf was just another Meade swilling Geat.

25 July 2012

In 1964...

The Summer smiled.

But, did it always know?

24 July 2012

A Manhattan Farmhouse

"In the northernmost part of Manhattan, the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum is the oldest, and the only remaining, farmhouse in Manhattan, built ca. 1784 by William Dyckman, of Dutch descent. It was turned into a museum in 1915 and restored to its late 18th century appearence, as was customary in the early 20th century." Exploring Historic Dutch New York, edited by Gajus Scheltema & Heleen Westerhuijs

It's an odd sight in the BronxManhattan. Dyckman Farmhouse offers a cool spot on Broadway shaded by 300 year old trees and plenty of space to move around in. Deserted on weekends, it's dusty 'living history' that's 18th century Williamsburg boiler plate but it's an amazing find here in NYC.

Take the A train to 207th Street and walk south on Broadway to 204th. Admission is $1 a person. Check out the website and Summer hours here before you go.

4881 Broadway at 204th Street

23 July 2012

¡Firmes! El Gaitero

I meet this college kid from Spain on the gun deck of the Castillo de San Marcos almost 30 Summers ago. St Augustine had been a Spanish colony, on and off, from 1565 to 1821, and was a popular destination for Spanish tourists, especially ustedes from Barcelona and northern Spain.

I remember it was about a hundred degrees with matching humidity on the gun deck. What we called a thermal inversion. No breeze whatsoever. I'm wearing an eight pound wool coat based on the Spanish artillery uniform of 1740 with a black felt cocked hat, linen breeches and blouse, red stockings and reproduction 18th century buckle shoes.

The kid, blonde hair and blue eyed, is from Barcelona and tells me he plays the bag pipes. The heat is getting to me. "Sorry, you play the what?" "The bag pipes," he tells me. "You know, northern Spain is very Celtic." "No shit," I'm thinking to myself as the gun deck tilts to a 45 degree list and I see mortars and canon sliding through the embrasures into Matanzas Bay.

Heat exhaustion is no laughing matter but the National Park Service didn't think it fell under Worker's Compensation. Today, I know better... and yesterday, I found this odd bottle of Spanish Cider, in an even odder wine store (PJ's Wine) way the hell up in the Bronx where God left his shoes. El Gaitero or The Piper, is $5.50 for a 23 oz bottle. The colder it gets -- the dryer it gets.

Pretty nice with Gazpacho soup when there's a thermal inversion outside. I don't have to sweat the eight pound wool coat anymore but drink enough El Gaitero and I can watch the buildings slide off Manhattan. It might even be work related.

19 July 2012

'Full Blast' G. Bruce Boyer & Rev. Gary Davis

Rev. Gary Davis, Birmingham, 1964

They simply don’t make ‘em like the Reverend any more. Born in South Carolina in 1896, Gary Davis was a self-taught itinerant guitarist-singer and touring Baptist preacher most of his life. It would have been a particularly difficult sojourn since he was born half-blind, and completely so by his mid-twenties.

But a musician preacher may have been what he was meant to be because he could sure play the hell out of his old Gibson guitar. And every ounce of pain and hope was there in his powerful voice. He was perhaps the last in a long line of religious street musicians. There are still plenty of street musicians, but no one told it like the Rev.

He recorded as early as 1935, mostly gospel songs, but blues – the Devil’s music -- as well. The recording history is as sporadic as his life. After the legendary 1933 recordings on the Perfect label, he recorded again in 1954 and 56, and a magnificent session of “holy blues” in 1960. His “Cocaine Blues” became something of an anthem when he was re-discovered by the 1960s generation of folk singers, the most famous version done by Kris Kristofferson.

And like other old blues singers from the 30s and 40s still alive and brought out of obscurity just short of the grave, he was invited to folk and blues festivals and university concerts from the 60s until his death in 1972. To that generation of hippies and flower-power children, some of whom he even deigned to teach a few licks, he was a living legend. He deserved it.

So much for the short account. But not even the most extensive biography can hope to give any indication of his searingly powerful voice and intricate playing style. His voice is like a scorching chainsaw that strips flesh from bone, and the guitar fingering deceptively stringent and simple, a two-fingered Carolina Piedmont style in which the instrument seems to speak directly for itself. Davis is said to have told a fan he only used thumb and forefinger to pluck because that’s all he needed. To hear “Great Change Since I Been Born”, or “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” is to understanding something of religion in the raw.

Like his near contemporaries Brownie McGee and Big Bill Broonzy, also street singers and guitarists, Davis deserves to be better known. He was one of the best guitarists ever to play Afro-American music, sacred or profane, and the immediate intensity in his voice reflects the hellfire and brimstone preachers of the day. His “I’ll do My Last Singing” is as movingly poignant a spiritual as you will ever hear.

There isn’t much delicacy about Davis’s playing and singing, but there’s wonderful nuance and unforgettable style. He could play and sing behind the beat or in front of it, run counter-point all over the place with such a seemingly focused abandonment he sounded as though he was making it all up on the spot.

When you think about that all-star band of blues musicians, better save a place for the Rev.

"One of these mornings and it won't be long,
You're gonna call me and I'll be gone,
I belong to the band, Hallelujah."

Discography of the Best:
Harlem Street Singer (Prestige/ Bluesville)
Rev Gary Davis at Home & Church (S. Grossman's Guitar Workshop)
Complete Early Recordings (Yazoo)
Live at Newport (Vanguard)
Pure Religion & Bad Company (Smithsonian Folkways)
Demons & Angels (Shanachie)

G. Bruce Boyer

The Trad:
How did you hear about Rev Davis?

G. Bruce Boyer:
When I was teaching in the 60s there was a big Folk Music Revival. Folk music never interested me (I remember the great jazz drummer Buddy Rich being asked if he was allergic to anything when they checked him in to the hospital for the last time: "Folk music", he said), but I got some of my some of my students interested in the Blues.

One day one of them came to me with an album I'd never seen, by a blues musician I'd never even heard of: the Rev. Gary Davis. I listened to it then and there, and was smitten: here was a guy whose guitar playing was as good as anything I'd ever heard, and he had a voice that would strip the rusted lug nuts off a 1965 Ford truck. I hate to use a feminine image, but I was vanquished. And that student unapologetically got an "A" from me.

Ever see him?

By the time I got to know of him, he was only playing big Folk festivals (as I remember), all rather far away from me. So I never got to see him in person. One of the tragedies in my life.

What is it about Davis that connects you:

I think what connects with me about Gary Davis is the same thing that connects with me about the great English writer Samuel Johnson: (1) the ability to overcome incredible hardship and produce beauty, and (2) the exquisite mastery of their craft. But, when it comes down to it, I'd be content to say that his music simply sears my heart.


How do you listen to Davis?

I like to listen to Davis in my car. I'll put on one of his albums, turn up the volume full blast, and drive around aimlessly. I know this is not environmentally correct, but it's the only way I can listen to him at full volume -- which is the way he should be heard -- and not bother anyone.

18 July 2012

Conclusion of Hard-Ons for Hitler: NSFW or Brown Shirts

Rare photo of Sgt Nick (standing, far right) and his Brassball Battalion, somewhere (Top Secret) in North Korea, 1978