1. Nick DiPaolo’s nic-fit
The highlight of my trip to New York City last weekend was getting to attack both a FRED PHELPS chick AND a 9/11 Troother (language warning) one block from the WTC. (It’s a sad commentary that I didn’t manage to be as calm and classy as, er, DANNY BONADUCE…)
But this is supposed to be my “showbiz” column, so instead, I’ll talk about NICK DIPAOLO.
When I heard he was playing the Gotham over the September 11 weekend, I grabbed two tickets online the day they went on sale.
When he took the stage Saturday night, DiPaolo was cranky. He said he needed a cigarette but Mayor BLOOMBERG wouldn’t let him, or anybody else, smoke in New York City anymore.
DiPaolo proceeded to speculate upon Bloomberg’s sexual orientation, although not in those words.
“Oooooh! The room gets quiet now? You liberals are the ones wrecking this city,” DiPaolo declared, along with “big girl” Bloomberg.
Having singled out one side of the Gotham room as leftists, DiPaolo addressed most of his scorn to them, complaining about OBAMA (“The first black President? He makes BRYANT GUMBEL look like FLAVOR FLAV“) and other Democratic politicians.
DiPaolo noted too — just as he does in this revealing recent interview — that his politics have held him back, career-wise:
“It’s funny, when I did my first couple open mics, 20-something years ago, I remember somebody saying ‘You’re going to be popular because you’re politically incorrect and that’s going to be big.’ It’s still not true, each year since then, and that was in 1988, it’s getting more politically correct, and I’m still waiting for it to swing and it’s not going to.”
However, DiPaolo’s well-deserved cult following is about to get a lot bigger. His new sports radio show, co-hosted with troubled pal ARTIE LANGE, debuts September 26.
I may have to start caring about hockey again.
2. Oliver Stone: black and white and wrong all over
You’re probably 9/11’d out, so file this one away for a later date:
Critic RICK MCGINNIS has a two-part series about September 11th on film, covering both documentaries and feature flicks like Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center — a work that should be screened for pre-teens everywhere, if only to convince them once and for all that cocaine is bad for you.
As McGinnis points out, Stone managed to not only make the right movie about the wrong heroes, but he even made one of those heroes the wrong color:
If there isn’t a rule that you can’t make a film where the protagonists are trapped and immobile, there should be one (and since every rule has an exception, Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours might be the exception that proves it, but I digress).
In trying to avoid controversy, Stone makes his characters both politically and physically passive, a hopeless condition that’s only underlined by the character of Dave Karnes, the ex-Marine who put on his old uniform, left his home in Connecticut and drove to Ground Zero, where he and another ex-Marine named Jason Thomas walked into the still-smoking debris field to search for survivors.
The story of Karnes and Thomas, strangers until they met that day, is incredible. Karnes, 43 when he found Port Authority police officers Will Jemeno and John McLoughlin buried under the South Tower rubble, ended up re-enlisting in the Marines and serving two tours in Iraq.
Thomas never sought recognition for his rescue work, went by his last name only and never told his children what he did in the week after 9/11. When Stone made the film, he wasn’t aware that Thomas was black, and cast his role with a white actor.
PLUS: McGinnis compares films about 9/11 to those made about the Titanic, reviews the documentaries currently available, and speculates on how future filmmakers will treat the defining event of our times.
3. Straw Dogs remake: threat or menace?
Remakes are bad enough, but when I heard the guy doing the Straw Dogs retread changed the setting from England to (you’ll NEVER guess!) the American south, I knew I didn’t have to bother seeing it; I’ve already watched Deliverance and at least a hundred other “hicks gone wild” films already, thanks.
Exhibit B? The poster:
Uh, hello? The protagonist has… reflecting skin…?
First of all, what is up with that reflection of a face when we can see clearly that the chunk of glasses where said reflection would be has broken off? Did this guy get a tattoo of a dude’s face on his eye? Did only his reverse clip-on shades get broken?
Erich Kuersten at the Acidemic blog has more, specifically about the left-wing/right-wing political overtones of the original (which remains a minor classic of the 1970s).
He also squeezes in some deep thoughts about one of my pet topics: that the “villain” of Leave Her to Heaven is really the heroine. (Your mileage will probably vary.)
Well worth reading.
Since the mid-70s, we’ve heard a lot about “flow” — the idea that at their peak, artists and athletes are swept up in an almost supernatural state of effortless creation and accomplishment.
Edison’s earlier formula, consisting of “inspiration” and “perspiration,” was deemed gauche and pedestrian — something relegated to cheap self-help books for struggling used car salesmen.
But have you ever noticed (as I once heard another writer put it) that “sometimes ‘the zone’ is just ‘too much coffee’?” — with results that are less inspired than insipid?
That in many creative fields, decades of boring, behind the scenes drills sometimes go into “making it look easy”?
Thanks to HighLoBrow for reminding me to write about George Jones this week. Or, more specifically, one particular recording of one particular George Jones song that illustrates that paradox perfectly.
There’s a new book out called He Stopped Loving Her Today. On the ever lengthening shelf dedicated to books about the ridiculously quotidian — I’m still waiting for A Natural History of Kitty Litter — Jack Isenhour has placed his obsessively detailed tome about how one of America’s most acclaimed and beloved records came to be.
It was 1980 and country singer George Jones was washed up. He’d lost his mother, his muse — fellow country star Tammy Wynette — and worn out his welcome in Nashville and elsewhere, thanks to booze, drugs and (I’m not joking) his adoption of an alter ego called “Deedoodle the Duck,” whose voice he insisted on talking in, during already awkward situations. (Imagine Mel Gibson’s movie The Beaver as a documentary.)
Jones had a chance to redeem himself when he was offered the chance to sing a heartbreaking new composition. In many ways — at the time, he weighed 98-lbs and “lived” on alcohol and dope — he was the perfect person to perform this shattering song.
Which also meant that he was the worse choice available: out of his mind drunk most of the time, unreliable and erratic.
Record producer Billy Sherrill didn’t care. He had a vision (an aural vision, as it were) of a harmonica here, a lush rush of strings here, and a maudlin “punch line” that is this close to being literally laughable. (Indeed, this saddest of sorrowful country songs started out as a black-humored novelty tune…)
And George, with his inimitable voice, would sing the song. And it would be Sherrill’s masterpiece. It might just… take a while…
The narration part of the song consists of four lines Jones speaks rather than sings: “She came to see him one last time/And we all wondered if she would/And it kept running through my mind/This time he’s over her for good.”
“Pretty simple, eh?” Jones asks in his book. “I couldn’t get it. I had been able to sing while drunk all of my life. I’d fooled millions of people. But I could never speak without slurring when drunk. What we needed to complete that song was the narration, but Billy could never catch me sober enough to record four simple spoken lines. It took us about 18 months to record a song that was approximately three-minutes long.”
It’s true. Sherrill recorded a take or two of Jones at the mic, salvaged any useable bits, then spliced them together foot by black magnetic foot until the recording was completed.
The only thing “flowing” in that studio was booze.
But the result was one of the most chilling, deeply moving recordings ever, one that induces acute physical reactions in virtually every listener, even if the old fashioned funereal imagery is foreign to our 21st century ears. The single sold millions of copies and won a Grammy.
I heard Jones sing “He Stopped Loving Her Today” live (nope, incredibly, he’s not dead yet) a few years back, and got goosebumps, of course. But the original recording boasts an invisible patina, thanks to the sweating and swearing that accompanied its creation.
Remember: you’re hearing the final flawless results of a painstakingly difficult mechanical, year-and-a-half-long cut-and-paste job that goes against all our ideas about what constitutes “inspiration” and “creativity.”
The original “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is an objet d’art in its own right. Smithsonian-worthy. “The thing itself.”