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Photo by Wild Don Lewis

That Billy Idol, 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 and toast . . . headache . . . Flesh! . .
. Burt Bacharach . . .”

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’s Jukebox
on 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’s Playground, 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: To Kevin and Julio
. . . Fuck You. 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 Rebel Yell.
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 TV Guide
reporter 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. There is nothin’ fair in this
world . . . There is nothin’
safe in this world . . .
(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.”)
There is nothing sure in this world,
and there’s nothing pure in this
world . . . And still, he raises his fist
to the sky and howls . . . It’s a nice day to
start again!

[

—Kate Sullivan

Mano a Mano

Under the first street bridge
downtown, 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 Fight Club and the WWE-heavy theatrics of Kaiju
Big Battel, 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 The Matrix’s
Agent 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.”

—Hadley Tomicki

Very Vero Beach

It’s 7:05, game time, 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.

[

—Jon Alain Guzik

Cauldron of Love

As traffic zipped around the bend of
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 Buffy
the Vampire Slayer, Curott plugged her latest book,
The Love Spell: An Erotic Memoir of
Spiritual Awakening, 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 Book of Shadows, 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 not that 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.”

[



—Kai Ma

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