By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Blond, ridiculously handsome, sincere and blessed with a clear tenor that can belt show tunes as easily as opera, Beacock seems the very embodiment of a "Broadway adaptation of the White Male Rock King," as Prieboy describes him. Now, with Prieboy introducing the scene, Beacock takes the center of the room for the show's opening number, "Guitar Center," a mocking paen to that very institution of rock & roll dreams on Sunset Boulevard:
Good evening Guitar Center!
World-Famous Guitar Center!
Rock musicians' rent is spent here
'bandon hope all ye who enter . . .
Starry-eyed Axl, fresh off the bus from Indiana, withstands the shock of L.A., survives the chill of new wave (in a song called "Duran Duran"), is stripped of his manager by sleazebag industry execs who denounce her as "just a chick," comes to terms with the decline of fame, and faces the hard truths of the star-making machinery ("Did you think you didn't need the Old Boy's Club?" asks a song toward the finale, with not entirely comic intent). The show is funny enough not to be taken too seriously, but true enough to be understood as Prieboy's critique of how the business builds up stars and crushes them without compunction; how deals are made and controlled by people who have neither the taste nor the integrity to detect talent. Axl Rose is the character's name, but the life story is partly Prieboy's -- like Rose, he began dreaming of rock stardom in his native Indiana, and came close ã enough to know what it means to live your illusion.
The music varies from Gilbert-and-Sullivany rapid-fire patter to Andrew Lloyd Weberinspired faux-rock: "Heavy Metal Stripper Chicks," a visit with the women of Jumbo's Clown Room, has something in common with the tunes Weber wrote for Jesus Christ (as in "superstar") to sing. "Here's a scene straight out of The Grapes of Wrath," Prieboy announces. "Every musical has its obligatory hoedown scene, its very own 'Shipoopi'," he says, referring to Buddy Hackett's signature number from The Music Man,which Prieboy astutely pronounces the greatest of American musicals. "Saddle up yer firebirds/Git yer two weeks pay/Grab your Strat and your baseball cap/We're bound for Ca-li-forn-i-ay," sing the cast, playing aspiring rock stars, crowded together as if on the back of a pickup truck. "We'll walk in them companies/Hot 'n' slick 'n' sure/We'll say 'Davy Geffen, where the fuck you want my signature, sir?'"
When it comes time for the show's finale, a scene that centers around Beacock and his high tenor, Beacock complains that his voice is tired from too many days of belting in a row. But his colleagues convince him to do it anyway. "Just don't sing full voice," one advises. "Do it in falsetto." He starts out gently, singing sotto voce, hitting high notes in a flutey head tone. But at some point, he gives up, or forgets, and lets his high notes rip. Like everyone else in this room, he seems unable to stand performing a single notch under full-throttle.
"ONE DAY I WANT TO STAND UP AT A songwriter's workshop and say, 'Everyone's going to prepare you for the business. I'm going to prepare you for afterthe business. I want to prepare you for the day when you're going to be old, and no one's going to want to see you, or hear you play, or come to your shows anymore. What are you going to do now?'"
In March of '99, HBO offered to fly the creator and cast of White Trash Wins Lottoto Aspen, Colorado, to the Comedy Arts Festival. Once again, "we were very firm," Prieboy says. "We told them exactly what we wanted, and they gave it to us. They flew us up there, treated us great, put us on a bigger stage with a great lighting system. 'Cause, you know, Largo's very rough -- there are six mikes and eight lights. So suddenly, we're working with this HBO-financed system on a bigger stage. And I realized two things -- what we would need to put it on a bigger stage, and that if we did put it on a bigger stage, in front of a bigger audience, it would fly. When we left Aspen, we said, 'We've just outgrown Largo.'"
In Aspen, Prieboy and D'Albert had met Snowden Bishop, an independent producer who was working with Lionel Pasamonte, the show's technical producer. Bishop signed on as the show's producer. White Trash Wins Lottowas performed at Largo for the last time on Prieboy's birthday (he won't say which one), April 17, and by October, Bishop had secured a three-night, weekend run at the Roxy, the club Prieboy and D'Albert had been eyeing since they signed with BMG. Every show sold out. An added fourth night sold out within 24 hours. "It verified for me that we could fill a 350-seat theater four nights in a row," Prieboy says. "And we confirmed that the production would work on a bigger scale."
Other weekends will follow, every other month, until White Trashoutgrows the Roxy, too. Or doesn't. No one wants to speculate too far ahead about a show that happened by accident. "We're taking it one little baby step at a time," Bishop ã insists. "I would hate to overexploit this and push it to a new venue before it's ready."