By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
|Photo by Wild Don Lewis|
ThatBillyIdol,he’s a heck of a mumbler. Sitting with his band at Tower Records, wearing fancy red leather pants, a leather jacket, and macho biker-bling on his fingers, Idol leans over whatever object he’s autographing — poster, LP, CD, leg — and gargles marbles. Possibly, he’s saving his voice. Makes you wonder: What would Billy Idol’s inner monologue sound like, and would “Flesh!” pop up much? God, I hope so, for everyone’s sake. “Eggs andtoast. . . headache. . . Flesh! . . . BurtBacharach. . .”
It’s 7 p.m. on a Friday, and we’re going on Hour Six of Billy Idol Day here in Hollywood — which began with an afternoon appearance on Jonesy’sJukeboxon Indie 103 and will end tonight with a fans-only show at the Roxy. And right now I must admit something: While I was ordering a carrot/penis smoothie at the Hustler store (strictly for parking validation) down the street from Tower Records, some woman apparently whipped out her huge boobs for Billy Idol, and he practiced his snarl on them while the paparazzi snapped it up. Hey, rock & roll comebacks are not pretty.
Billy Idol, 49, looks like himself these days . . . and not. The Mick Jagger influence is heavier now — say, Mick at 39. When Idol smiles, it overtakes his face, and what’s left crinkles up like a Shar-Pei. It all supports the theory that rock stars are the world’s biggest fans: Idol once absorbed Elvis’ sneer and Morrison’s shriek; why not throw in Jagger’s grin? (Heck, on his new record, Devil’sPlayground,he cops a Johnny Cash vibe as well as some convincing Neil Diamond/Bang Records handclap-tambourine love.)
For more than two hours, with a J. Lo video playing silently on a TV screen and 50 Cent posters on the wall, Billy Idol sits and carefully signs his name, and whatever messages fans have requested: ToKevinandJulio...FuckYou.About 500 fans are here, including middle-aged ex–hair babes, three 15-year-old girls from North Hollywood High who’re Generation X fans (“We’re hip to the jive,” one says), and 7-year-old Ed, from Anaheim, who listens to “Dancing With Myself” before every Little League game. (No, he doesn’t know what it’s about, says his father, Dan, 34.)
About 20 years ago, Idol did his first L.A. in-store, for RebelYell.As his publicist recalls, one of Elvis’ former bodyguards hooked him up with an Elvis groupie. “They stayed up for three days — she kept giving him drugs,” she recalls. “Then she had a dream. She told Billy that Elvis had spoken to her, and said Billy was supposed to carry on his mission. And that’s when he went, Oh shit . . . She’s crazy.”
Some might say crazy; others might say, Duh. Billy Idol was self-made to play Vegas, and play it cool. He’s always been a pretty boy, with an inherent sense of humor, presentation and popsmanship. Yes, that can look cartoonish up close, under fluorescent lighting, at almost 50. At Tower, when the TVGuidereporter asks Idol to recite some text for the camera, he flubs it, talking about his “book signing,” but ends the take with a carefully timed snarl, raised eyebrow, and fist. Idol knows what people want, and he’s happy to give it. What they want is someone he wants to be, too.
And yeah, there’s a lot of Elvis in there, via Morrison. It’s all revealed an hour later at the Roxy show. His voice is occasionally strong but generally ragged after a long day. What hasn’t changed, and comes on slowly, is his ability to turn people on with the oldest, most sacred/cheap tricks in the book. During the new song “Scream,” he reaches down to fans, singing to them directly; on “Flesh for Fantasy,” he thrusts his hips for some imaginary girl on her knees — it’s ridiculous, and actually pretty sexy. He cracks an imaginary whip, too — but then, midgesture, reaches up to scratch his eye with his other hand. “White Wedding” is his shining moment, though. His voice is switched on, the band is alive — and maybe you’d have to know Idol spent more than a decade as a has-been crack and heroin addict, but the lyrics are really holding up. Thereisnothin’fairinthisworld...Thereisnothin’safeinthisworld...(And don’t we all know it, Billy — if we didn’t know it back in 1984. No wonder he’s got a T-shirt that reads, “Protect yourself from Hollywood.”) Thereisnothingsureinthisworld,andthere’snothingpureinthisworld...And still, he raises his fist to the sky and howls . . . It’sanicedaytostartagain!
Underthefirststreetbridgedowntown, blood is being drawn. A bare corner of wet pavement between two concrete pillars supporting the overpass swarms with a ragtag circle of more than 150 liquor-fueled skaters, artists and alterna-dorks. Rowdy cheers, screams and boos assault the air as the contestants duel in a gladiator pit in the middle of the crowd. Practically obscured is DJ Dolphin Force, whose aggressive beats sustain the crowd’s tension.
This is the third annual Rock, Paper, Scissors Rumble, a double-fisted love child of FightCluband the WWE-heavytheatrics of KaijuBigBattel,with every spectator having a favorite fighter, and every fighter bringing a larger-than-life persona.
Pothead, a skinny rocker who literally has a cooking pot on his head, is up against Jim Henson, a mid-20s ringer for the Muppet master, complete with brown beard, corduroy coat and a hand up Kermit’s keister. The Weezer-esque referee, whose slapdash uniform makes him look like he’s AWOL from Foot Locker, releases the hungry opponents’ hands for an intense round of “Roe-Sham-Boe.”
“One, Two, Three . . . Shoot!” Two fists dance on three beats and the shooters make split-second decisions on what to throw. Paper seems to serve the same purpose as the “C” bubble on the SATs, with panicked fighters often resorting to its understated appeal. Henson is aware of this tendency though, his deft artillery quickly putting Pothead to rest by winning three rounds of the best of five. The boastful winner is lustily booed for running victory circles with Kermit’s tiny hand held up for high-fives.
Cheap thrills go best with cheap drinks. Keeping the swelling party properly lubed is a bar adjacent to the circle of death, asking for only a donation in exchange for cold beer and strong screwdrivers. Hand-made fashions and leather goods, courtesy of local independent designers, are available for those who can apparently shop anywhere. Skooby’s, known for having the most punk chili dogs in Hollywood, has set up its Skooby’s mobile to distribute free dogs for the blood-hungry throng.
Edging the event ever closer to a cockfight is the bookie who takes sporadic bets on the action, a minuscule wad of singles held in his clutches. Behind the dogged fighters, video of last year’s event is psychedelically projected on a bare pillar, which, combined with the announcer’s propulsive commentary, adds sensory overload to an already chaotic happening. Caine, an Abercrombie-tinted vision of kung-fu calm, has just defeated Chunky Highlights, who moves her colorfully tattooed legs out of the Thunderdome.
By the time Jim Henson stands across from Caine for the 2005 championship, the ring girl can do nothing but stagger, tear off her wig and jump into the middle of the circle until someone drags her out. Impromptu break dancing keeps busting out and a Ron Burgundy look-alike has entered the fray, soliciting comments from the battle-weary with an outdated mic and camera.
Caine easily wins the final cash prize — leaving Henson with only his frog puppet and a good buzz to go home with. After a short intro film, last year’s champ, Rubek’s Cubed, emerges from the shadows to confront the new champion. Donning an old-school Nintendo Power Glove with its own tech-support team, Rubek’s launches into a new-school robot dance that would put TheMatrix’sAgent Smith to shame. He then proceeds to get his hubris-heavy butt kicked by the humble Caine in a near shutout.
“It would have been great, if I had known I’d actually won! You know, it was pretty confusing,” says a modest Caine of the chaotic victory, who promises his winnings will go direct to the Shaolin Temple brotherhood. “No doubt.”
Very Vero Beach
It’s7:05,gametime,and Dodgertown’s Holman Stadium is more raucous than Chavez Ravine on Fernando bobblehead night. “Centerfield” by John Fogerty blasts from the PA. Fresh-faced families, tropically attired retirees and die-hard baseball fanatics, just in from the parking lots where they mingled over hot grills and cold Yuengling beer, move from seat to seat. Injured relief pitcher Eric Gagne sits two rows in front of me with his wife and kids. A lot of drinking, eating and kibitzing (“Now when the O’Malleys owned the team . . .”) is going on. The Dodgers and the Mets take the field and the game progresses slowly as the players switch every few innings.
Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida, where the team has held every spring training since 1953, doesn’t seem to have changed much. Imagine Dodger Stadium shrunk down and placed in a vast bucolic baseball wonderland complete with low-lying 1950s-era modernist buildings, multiple verdant baseball diamonds and plenty of free parking. But change is what this spring is all about. You feel the history and lore of the Dodgers as well as the encroaching storm of big business, slashed payrolls and discontented fans.
“Why they made some of these trades, I’ll never know,” says Kathy Ripka, a spring-season ticket holder, with husband Rick, since 1988. “McCourt has cut back a lot on Dodgertown. They’ve raised the prices on everything — tickets, beer, name it.” She hands me a homemade cheesesteak sandwich.
In the fourth inning, I spot general manager Paul DePodesta, the guy responsible for all those trades and perhaps the most reviled sports figure in Los Angeles, watching the game from the press box.
“How’s spring training going this year?” I ask DePo.
“Well, the expectations are vastly different this season. I think people were surprised that we won the division last year. We’ve changed a lot but I’m happy with the new team and all the new faces you see.”
“Are you getting used to Los Angeles yet?”
“I finally have a house and a new baby and you can’t beat the weather.” He grins.
“You know, not a lot of people in the city know who you are.”
“That’s exactly the way that I like it.”
“Well, if you win, the fans in L.A. are going to love you but if you lose . . .”
DePo looks at me carefully as top prospect Dioner Navarro, the man he basically traded Shawn Green for, hits a line-drive single and brings in a run. The fans cheer. Maybe, I think, things won’t be so bad after all.
Of course, I say that every spring . . .
On this day, at least, the new players, the higher prices, the turmoil is forgotten. Final score, Dodgers 16, Mets 4.
Astrafficzippedaroundthebendof Rowena Avenue, a small crowd gathered inside Cauldron, a Silver Lake goddess shop, to listen to author and renowned Wiccan high priestess Phyllis Curott cast a love spell on humankind. Twenty or so witchcraft practitioners and New Age types sat cross-legged on the concrete floor, scribbling their e-mail addresses on a sign-up sheet for Curott’s Temple of Ara in New York City, one of the longest-running Wiccan congregations in the country. On one lavender-painted wall sat brown packets of spells, labeled “Attract a Soul-Mate,” “Win in Court” or “Get a Job”; thick, velvet curtains framed the windows, and a thin ribbon of incense trailed through the air.
Introduced by Lorna Firman, owner of Cauldron and former stylist for BuffytheVampireSlayer,Curott plugged her latest book, TheLoveSpell:AnEroticMemoirofSpiritualAwakening,in which she tells of finding her dream lover after casting a spell and seeking counsel from a daemon. The memoir is the sequel to BookofShadows,which detailed the author’s discovery of Wicca (“wise one”), the modern revival of a goddess-oriented spiritual practice that is also referred to as witchcraft, the Old Religion and the Craft of the Wise. For Curott, who is also an Ivy League attorney, the book served as a response to the political backlash following 9/11 — a need to spread the message of “make love (literally), not war” to the red states, which, according to Curott, are more like “purple states,” because liberals live in Texas too.
Describing portions of the book as a romance novel written in the first person, Curott discussed the challenges of publishing autobiographical sex scenes. “It was the first time I was happy my mother was dead,” she said. At that point, Rae, a Cauldron salesperson with pink-streaked locks, yelled out, “That fantasy scene in the beginning? Holy mackerel, girl . . . wooooooo!”
“That was the hardest part for me to get through,” said an old woman with white curly hair. “It was, ummm, very personal.”
Curott’s quest for true love exposed how women often co-opt negative, masculine characteristics in order to succeed in the corporate and sexual world. She recalled coming home to a former metrosexual beau who was smearing his legs with rose lotion. “I had to be the warrior, and I couldn’t get the armor off at night,” Curott said. “I would come home, take charge and get on top.”
“We’re so primitive — we’re neither yin or yang! We’ve sunk so low,” Rae moaned.
“As yin rises, the yang must deplete — there needs to be a balance!” yelled a voice from the back.
“Uh-huh,” said a bespectacled, middle-aged woman, raising a fist in solidarity.
The book, a self-empowerment chronology of relationships that resulted from love spells — including two decadelong marriages — explains that there’s way more to witchcraft than just potions and chants. It doesn’t matter if you pray, wish upon a star, or mash herbs in a paste by moonlight — so long as you get in touch with your deepest longings and express them to the universe.
“Two of my love spells ended in divorce, but the moral is notthat you shouldn’t do the spell,” Curott said. “Learn to love, become whole and eventually let go.”
The talk then erupted into a group-therapy jam session on how the problems of the day are derived from a world that lacks love — the audience spouting rallying cries against religious fundamentalism (“That’s not theology, that’s abnormal psychology!”), patriarchal dead-ends (“Martha Stewart was persecuted!”), and other social ills. Even the tsunami that devastated South Asia was referred to as a flaw in human perception.
“We’ve forgotten how to read the signs of the Earth,” said a woman standing by the door. “The body has the ability to perceive beyond the limitations of space and time.”
Almost two hours into the event, as groans of affirmation filled the room, one of the Cauldron co-workers, who spent the majority of the talk furiously pushing buttons on her cell phone while playing a video game and sighing, said to Firman, “Shouldn’t we move on to the book signing already? We really need to tell her that.”
As a line emerged, books were sold and Hopi handshakes exchanged.
“God has a penis but no place to put it, and that’s why He’s been so grouchy,” said Curott. Pressing her book against her chest, she added, “But I think I’ve found a place for Him to put it.”