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Killing Them, but Not Softly 

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The green carpet stood in place of the red carpet, apparently some kind of marketing push designed to link one of the party’s sponsors — Heineken — with the stuff celebrities walk on. Vibe and Spin magazines supplied the street cred and entertainment for the Grammy pre-party at the Henry Ford Theater last Saturday night, and erstwhile Fugee Wyclef was the main attraction. Most people were pretty sure he was playing, or would be playing, sometime between 9 p.m. and midnight, or whenever he felt like it, possibly even if he didn’t.

In the meantime, the DJ was good, and the aging record execs were everywhere displaying dexterous cell-phoning and power-drinking skills. I met several people from New York who told me they “flew in for the Grammys, going home Monday” as if it were akin to hopping over to Davos for the World Economic Forum. There was an opening band of some sort and a lot of very attractive people going outside to smoke cigarettes and then the DJ again, playing that song by the Killers.

Wyclef finally took the stage, opening with a reggae medley that was slow and sad and ended with much screaming about loving marijuana and the Fugees and putting your hands in the air and the LAPD and kicking someone’s ass and loving marijuana. The next song was sort of a hyper version of the first one:

Put your hands in the air, put your hands in the air, put your cell phones in the air, I ain’t playing one more goddamn note if I don’t see some fucking cell phones in the air!

The guy next to me leaned over and whispered, “When did he become a wedding singer?” and somebody else chimed in, “Aerobics instructor’s more like it.”

Later, there was a version of “Redemption Song” that was so askew even the black folks couldn’t dance to it. Wyclef followed that with much fuss about the audience’s need to remove most of their clothing. When that didn’t work, he just started pulling a seemingly never-ending supply of half-naked women up onstage with him.

There’s been some talk since he left the Fugees about whether or not this dude is wacko. All I’m saying on the subject is that it’s a thin line between insanity and the sort of genius that leads a man to play a 40-minute version of a song composed of four notes repeated over and over, that came to a sudden and dire halt when Wyclef again started screaming, this time at his band:

Stop playing, stop playing, stop your goddamn playing! Some white girl just touched my ass!

After everyone onstage stopped playing and everyone in the audience stopped laughing, Wyclef took the microphone and soberly faced the audience. “I am not Kobe Bryant,” he admonished. He then turned to the offending white girl and said, “I am not Kobe Byrant, but I will fuck the ever-living shit out of you.”

Which is when my date decided the whole thing was clearly a parable of some kind, and I went to get a beer, only to find out that, although the show was not yet over, the bar had run out of Heineken.

—Steven Kotler


Way Behind the Music


You saw the 47th annual Grammys on TV, and you know who took home the statues, but the real show goes down off camera. Here are the big winners from backstage:

Best Pre-Show Entourage: Marc Anthony and J.Lo. With an army of people including big ol’ security dudes, stylist and personal assistants, the lovely couple strolled around like royalty. J.Lo, wearing a Kangol-like wool cap and her signature J.Lo glasses, smiled and nodded at me like I was one of her subjects, which I am.

Best Class Clowns: Los Lonely Boys. As the Garza brothers walked through, one of them jokingly asked the security, “Hey, can I get one of those earpieces?” And also told the press, “Me siento muy excited.” Yes, they speak in tongues.

Best Larry Mullen (U2) impersonation: That dude from Franz Ferdinand; the chap even ended his speech with “Cheers.”

Best Political Statement: Although Jesse from Maroon 5 wore a peace-sign band around his arm, folksinger Steve Earle dropped this gem: “To get over post-election blues, you should go to Europe, fall in love, and play at least one Stones cover song.”

Best Tattoo: That thing on Jamie Foxx’s head.

Best Backstage Job: That dude who wiped the Grammys down before handing them over to the artists.

Most Daring Outfit: Ben Harper in his Elvis-like glittery duds; partner actress Laura Dern seemed to love it.

Best Dressed: Anthony Hamilton, who wore a white suit with a matching hat; come on, the brother sang “Charlene”!

Best Comeback: Andy Garcia, who was taking questions from the press when a rude woman started speaking loudly on her cell phone. “That’s all right,” he told her, “we’ll wait.”

Best Kodak Moment: Motorhead’s Lemmy and Jill Scott stood right next to each other and had a brief moment while waiting to meet the press.

Cutest Couple: White Stripes’ Jack White and country legend Loretta Lynn.

Best Ego-Trippin’: The Black Eyed Peas. Not only did they demand that only two questions be asked from the press, but they passed up the print media all together. No one from the Aliso-Pico projects acts like that, homies.

Best Looking: Alicia Keys, no doubt! With that sexy Cleopatra-looking white dress, the press had a field day: “ALICIA! ALICIA, over here, ALICIA!”

Best Moment: Kanye West, looking very angelic in his white suit and drinking Cristal champagne, stood next to me, and when I casually said, “Congrats,” he turned to me and replied, “Thanks, brother.” Then he shook my hand and walked over to Stevie Wonder. “Hey, Stevie, you’re the best,” he said. “No, it’s you,” Stevie replied.

—Ben Quiñones



The Professor of Fishing


As a child I learned to fish the surf at the south end of the Venice parking lot, casting a treelike 12-foot rod with a winchlike conventional reel that would leverage a 4-ounce piece of lead and bait out, over and beyond the waves. Nowadays, it’s all about ultralight tackle: freshwater rods, small spinning reels, 4-pound test fluorocarbon line, reddish (and brown and purple and pumpkinseed) 1½-inch plastic grubs, and supersharp tiny hooks to yank chunky 2-pounders right out of the waves. (Yes, Virginia, even when you venture into the Santa Monica waters only up to your knees, there are fish all around you.)

Surf-fishing addicts love acquiring this equipment, strategizing about where to cast and, most especially, getting out in the water and experimenting with new techniques. And so when Dick Schaffer convened his first surf-fishing seminar of the season the other night at Purfield’s, the tackle shop he owns on Washington Boulevard, three dozen of us fought and jostled for seats.

The subject was how to read: how to read the beach surrounding Santa Monica Bay for the “holes,” “troughs” and “rips” that attract fish. And then, of course, how to “hang” a fat surf perch, corbina, yellow-fin croaker or even an elusive halibut right out of the whitewater in and around the breakers.

Underneath the brightly colored stuffed bass, tuna and marlin on the walls, and among the stands of gleaming rods, torpedo sinkers, Smelly-Jelly bait paste, blood-red Mosquito hooks and luminous plastic swim-baits, Schaffer held us spellbound for two solid hours of fish talk.

“Cast and retrieve. Cast and retrieve,” counseled Schaffer, who, with his salt-and-pepper beard, thin-rimmed glasses and patient style of lecture, might as well be a tenured Professor of Fishing.

“Walk and wind. Walk and wind. Keep moving,” he continued. “You always have to think the next hole is the one with 20 perch in it.”

You find those holes by looking for “color spots” in the water, depressions in the waves, built-up structure in the sand — places where clashing currents meet and churn the water.

“That’s where the fish are likely to be,” Schaffer told us, holding one of his custom-wrapped black graphite rods in his hand. “Then again, there are no constants in fishing. What worked yesterday and today may fail tomorrow.”

That’s why it’s called Fishing . . . not Catching.

When Schaffer first put out word of the lecture last month with a simple sign-up sheet at his register, he says, he wasn’t sure his customers would bite. “Who knew something like 80 people would sign up?” he said as he laid out his counter with some pretzels and chips for the bubbling and buzzing crowd. “I’m just overwhelmed. I had to add on an extra night to squeeze everyone in.”

Schaffer should have known he’d bait us in. With all the changes in equipment, the angling he’s teaching is a relatively new invention. Plus, he’s a fishing junkie like the rest of us. And if there’s such a thing as the opposite of a 12-step program, that’s what the seminar was. Addicts know you can’t really surf fish at night, so why not pluck down 20 bucks for the class and do the next best thing to fishing: hang out at a fishing store and spend two hours talking about fishing?

Schaffer readily fesses up to his own compulsion.

“Great part of this job is that I don’t have to be in until 10 or so,” he says. “That gives me an easy two hours a morning of fishing before I have to come in.” Before he has to come in, he means to say, and spend the rest of the day talking about fishing.

The seminar was such a success that Schaffer’s now planning to expand the course work. Over the next few weeks he’s breaking us into several small groups for some intensive “practical workshops,” e.g., in situ surf fishing. And in mid-March he’s bringing in Captain Tommy Lee, of the local Freedom sport-fishing boat, to offer us an advanced class in stalking white sea bass.

I’d love to tell you more. But it’s time to do my homework. I don’t want to disappoint the Prof.

—Marc Cooper




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