|Photo by Ted Soqui|
IT'S SAFE TO SAY THAT, IN LOS ANGELES, IF YOU SEE A TEENAGE girl rockin' out while sitting in the passenger seat of her mom's minivan, she's probably listening to KIIS-FM 102.7. My daughter, Anabel, is 12. She knows the words to every song on the playlist by heart. Whenever she gets into my car, it doesn't matter what I'm listening to — was listening to — we crank up the Pink! I guess it was inevitable that she would talk me into taking her to Wango Tango, the annual concert event put on by this hopelessly commercial radio station.
I'm one of those guys who grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs, '70s style, glitter/glam with a less than smooth transition into punk rock later in the decade. A “Disco Sucks” kind of guy. I always prided myself on being on the outside, ahead of the trends and definitely never listening to Top 40 radio. That was for the millions of losers singing Styx and Foreigner songs at kegger parties. I was busy listening to Bowie bootlegs, trying to learn how to play the guitar parts to “John, I'm Only Dancing.”
So I wasn't quite sure how I felt about going to this concert. It was easy enough to tolerate listening to KIIS in the car. After all, the windows were usually rolled up, and unless the Silver Lake hipsters waiting at the red lights could read lips, there was little chance they knew we had listened to at least two, maybe three, No Doubt songs on the short trip from Mount Washington.
On the morning of the concert, Anabel and her friend Luisa — who spent the night in anticipation — sprayed glitter on their jeans, which were split up the outside seams to above the knees and decorated with rhinestones or safety pins. They slipped on their halter tops (midriffs exposed, of course), some not so sensible shoes and a dab of glitter makeup around the eyes. The extent to which I had gone way out on a limb began to sink in, but it was too late now, and off we went to the Rose Bowl at high noon on what seemed to be the first truly hot day of the summer.
Gwen Stefani’s girls:
Anabel and Luisa
Photo by John Curry
The KIIS-FM DJs onstage kept saying there were 70,000 people in attendance, and it looked like 60,000 of them were females between the ages of 12 and 20. The rest were parents, many of whom seemed to be surprisingly knowledgeable participants with their own agendas. The mom behind me kept asking her miniskirt-clad daughters when Steven Tyler from Aerosmith was going to go on (he did a bluesy duet with Pink) or if Ozzy was gonna show up (to support his now-famous, reality/sitcom-star daughter, Kelly, who performed her cover of the Madonna “classic” “Papa Don't Preach”). Maybe her mom took her to aging rock stars' concerts back in the '70s.
Fifteen acts in 10 hours: Ouch! The first four hours were brutal. Sitting through sets by O-Town and the Calling was like trying to make 60,000 kids watch an LAUSD school board meeting on public television. Just as I was fantasizing about a way to get the girls to leave early, the sun went down and Pink took the stage. The previously unfocused throng came to life, singing in perfect unison, “Teachers dated me/My parents hated me . . .” I hadn't been in an audience of true believers like this since Bowie closed his shows with “Rock and Roll Suicide.”
As Anabel and Luisa and every girl within sight loosened up and got down, self-confidently shaking their rapidly developing booties in hip-grinding Britney/ J-Lo imitations, I tried hard to keep my judgmental eyes on the stage for fear that I would chill my daughter's vibe by becoming the clichéd overprotective dad. Back in the '70s, strong role models for young girls were few and far between, and women in rock were mostly championed for being women in rock. Now they rule the industry. When No Doubt came on around 9 and Gwen Stefani screamed, “Hello, Los Angeles! Let me hear from my girls!,” the response was truly deafening — and, I have to admit, on some level gratifying.
Music changes, fashion changes, but what doesn't change is the need to be a part of something at a crucial time of our lives. The truth is, kids are smarter, bolder and more comfortable with who they are — and what they want to listen to — than most of us at their age. As giant cannons shot glitter into the air at the end of No Doubt's last song, Anabel turned to me and announced that she wanted to take guitar lessons. And as we trekked out to the parking lot with the rest of the spent masses, I could hear car radios blasting the same familiar songs on the ever shrinking playlist of “L.A.'s No. 1 hit-radio station.” And I realized, God forbid, that I too knew all the words by heart.
Hooked: The Return of Xaviera Hollander
Hollander: “I’ll try anything.”
IT'S A GRAY THURSDAY MORNING IN Pasadena, but the plain institutional hallways of the city's public radio station, KPCC-FM 89.3, seem to glow in Technicolor. That's because Xaviera Hollander has arrived for an on-air interview with über-host Larry Mantle. The Dutch author/Penthouse columnist/sexual institution is in town to promote her new autobiography, Child No More: A Memoir, and also to be fabulously outrageous.
She doesn't look like a onetime superwhore whose first book — The Happy Hooker, published 30 years ago — gave an entire generation of young men their first boners. Fifty-nine years old, her thick frame swathed in a simple wrap, she at first comes across as almost plain. But then she greets you with a twinkly smile and a Zsa-Zsa Gabor-esque “DAH-ling!,” and when she asks if you might fetch her a cup of water or, better yet, some tea, you gladly obey. People instinctively do things for Xaviera Hollander. She's had lots of practice getting what she wants. In fact, she's had a willing slave for years.
Yes, Hollander has a slave, so she claims — and who's to question her? She also has a full-time female lover, and a young male buck on the side. She says she's become what's known as a “stone butch” lesbian — happy to please a woman in bed, but unable to really get off without male penetration. On a recent stop in New York, Hollander had a carnal reunion with a 50-year-old man whose cherry she popped back in her hooking days, when he was 19. Now he's wealthy, owns horses and shaves his balls.
She tells me all these things, unprompted, within about five minutes of saying “Hello.” And five minutes after that, I find myself telling her about a few fetishes not even my own girlfriend knows I have. Hollander's L.A. handler — dispatched by her publisher, Regan Books — understands what's happening to me. “I've told her things I haven't told anyone,” she whispers confidentially as Hollander is ushered into the KPCC studios. “She's never offended by anything.”
The atmosphere at KPCC is like that of a lot of daily news-gathering operations — genial but serious. There are deadlines to be met and issues to be discussed, and the authors interviewed on the station's two daily talk shows tend toward the Pulitzer Prize end of the literary spectrum. So when Hollander's mic goes live and she starts gaily reeling off anecdote after titillating anecdote about life as a trisexual (“I'll try anything,” she smiles), the entire station perks up.
“I had champagne tastes and a beer budget,” Hollander says, recalling her '60s transformation from Dutch Consulate secretary to whorehouse madame. “So a friend of mine said, 'Xaviera, look at you. You're sitting on a gold mine down there — why not cash in?'” The volunteers manning KPCC's call-in phone lines, who 30 seconds earlier were discussing in muted tones Internet filtration in public libraries, now burst into laughter.
Hollander quotes from perhaps the least politically correct passage of The Happy Hooker, comparing the sexual mannerisms of men of different ethnicities. The safest example: “The French have excellent technique, but very bad hygiene.” Then she tells a story from her childhood, about the day her father spanked her and she had an orgasm. This is not something she considers unnatural, or even uncommon. The control room erupts in animated ä conversation. A father-daughter spanking orgasm is healthy? Is this woman serious, or just pushing our buttons?
“I'm not easily shocked or anything,” says the soundboard operator, “But I have to say I've been surprised several times this morning.”
Me too, but not just by the Happy Hooker's ability to unleash a flood of torrid talk. These days, “sex-positive” writer/activists like Suzie Bright routinely get roomfuls of housewives gabbing about anal sex and three-ways. But Hollander has something Bright doesn't, something left over from the Playboy era of her youth — she makes sex talk seem not merely naughty or liberating, but sophisticated, cosmopolitan. Even glamorous. Watching her in action, I can't help but feel a little nostalgic for a time 30 years ago, when the most stylish accessory a person could sport was a dirty mind.
Meanwhile, back in the studio, a KPCC volunteers asks, “Can someone tell me what exactly is polyamory?”
Spaghetti Jazz: Scoring, Italian Style
“IT WAS AMAZING, AMAZING!” SAYS Daniele Luppi, recalling the making of An Italian Story, his new collection of instrumentals inspired by the swinging film soundtracks of 1960s and '70s Italy. Since moving to Los Angeles three years ago, the Italian-born composer has contributed groovy, '60s-flavored music to such independent films as Robinson Devor's The Woman Chaser and Christian Taylor's forthcoming Showboy. But for Luppi, An Italian Story is much more than just a musical calling card — it's a love story as well.
With its twangy baritone guitars, burbling Hammond organs, funky Minimoogs and whistled melodies, the collection vividly recalls the spaghetti-Western scores of Ennio Morricone, the Fellini work of Nino Rota, and the space-age fun of Piero Umiliani. Recorded at Rome's Telecinesound — an all-analog studio built in 1968 that Luppi describes as “frozen in time” — An Italian Story reunites many of the top-shelf session musicians who worked with those maestros. “I wanted to explore the many styles of Italian soundtracks of that era, and realized that it would be perfect to actually have these people play on it,” Luppi says.
While studying classical piano in college, Luppi researched the history of jazz in Italy, discovering that the country's premier jazz musicians of the 1960s and '70s were also responsible for many of the memorable movie and TV themes he'd heard as a kid. “The jazz players were hired to do the sessions for the movies, because they worked very quick,” he explains. “There were basically 12 people in Italy that could play at this very good, professional level.”
The nucleus of this Italian version of the Wrecking Crew was The Marc 4, an astonishingly versatile quartet consisting of bassist Maurizio Majorana (who owns and runs Telecinesound), organist Antonello Vannucchi, percussionist Roberto Podio and guitarist Carlo Pes. Last year, Luppi asked the surviving members (Pes died two years ago) to come out of retirement and record a dozen of his compositions.
Surprised that someone less than half their age was actually familiar with their work, the musicians didn't need a whole lot of encouraging. “It started out a bit formal,” Luppi remembers, “but after a half an hour, these guys were totally happy, because I was asking them about all these weird movies they'd done. And when I showed them the scores I'd written, Antonello said, 'Oh, Maurizio, this is the kind of bass line that you were doing!'”
Several dozen transatlantic telephone calls later, Luppi and Majorana managed to assemble a dream team of old-school sessioneers, including Alessandro “The Whistler” Alessandroni, whose mournful trills embellished many of Morricone's early soundtracks. Far more challenging was the task of rounding up the proper gear. “In Los Angeles, it is the easiest thing to find vintage instruments,” says Luppi. “But in Rome, there's no place to rent them. You have to go to friends to borrow them.” And once found, there was no guarantee that the stuff would actually work. “The fuzz pedal was so rusty, almost no sound came out of it. We were there polishing the connections, trying to get some sound out of it. It was like, 'Okay, the sound's coming out — quick, let's record!'”
Many of the musicians hadn't played together in nearly a decade, and the joyfulness of their reunion is almost palpable in such exuberant tracks as “Nightclub” and “Telecinebeat.” Their ability to nail a number on the first take also left ample time for swapping old stories over pasta and wine, much to Luppi's delight. Unfortunately, he failed to photograph either the recording or the repasting sessions. “I was so busy producing the thing,” he says. “And if I were to say, 'Okay, let's stop now and take a picture,' I would lose all the respect from these guys. Yes, I'm a fan, but we are doing a serious job, because I want to get out of there with music!”
Luppi got the music, and that turns out to have been the easy part. Now he's talking with several different labels about releasing An Italian Story. “It's not about the money,” he says, “it's about finding people who can understand the project. It may have been recorded with a funny and charming atmosphere, but this is jazz from that era, not elevator or lounge music.” In the near future, he hopes, he'll be flying the musicians to the U.S. to play a few shows coinciding with the record's release. “For that,” he says, “I would definitely bring a camera.”