Tony Ballz

Tony Ballz

The Kennedy Center Nominees Looked Like a Strange Bunch This Year

Tony Ballz

I was eager to tune in. To tell the truth, I barely turn the damn thing on anymore. Well, for anything besides basketball, South Park, The Daily Show, Rio Bravo on AMC (again), reruns of NewsRadio, Cheers and Gilmore Girls or the hilarious cleaned-up Sopranos on A&E. And wouldn’t you know it, an overly sanitized Pump up the Volume is on WGN right before tonight’s broadcast. YES! Happy Harry Hardon! They should have burned the place down at the end, like in Rock & Roll High School.

Oh, the Kennedy Center thing. 2009’s honorees were: opera singer Grace Bumbry, Dave “Take Five” Brubeck, Mel “It’s good to be da king” Brooks, Robert “Are you talkin’ to ME?” DeNiro, and Bruce “Broooce” Springsteen, who’s already Emperor of New Jersey AND The Boss.

For those who don’t know, the Kennedy Center gala is pretty much the only time the U.S. Government officially acknowledges the existence of something called “culture” in our society. The idea’s seed came from Mamie Eisenhower, Kennedy tried to make it happen, and it finally broke ground under Johnson, who named it after freshly-dead JFK. The Center opened in 1971 and has hosted thousands of performances and concerts, mostly jazz, classical and Broadway. Starting in 1978, the Kennedy Center has named five honorees a year for outstanding something-or-other.

Looking over the list of past winners made me wish I had seen 2004’s show, in which George W. Bush’s America paid tribute to Mr. Bob “you can call me Zimmy” Dylan, that old pinko.

 The whole shebang is a big deal. The fun starts on Saturday at the White House, where the president awards each recipient a ceremonial ribbon, which they are required to wear all weekend. Then dinner and cocktails and a sleepover at the president’s pad. The big glitzy Golden Globey public ballyhoo is on Sunday afternoon and the highlights are edited into a two hour special, airing Sunday night.

The honorees sit WAY the heck up in the fifth balcony (along with Mr. and Mrs. Prez), their spouses/dates behind them, and the adoring crowd below is constantly turning and applauding up towards heaven at them. The strangest thing is that during the proceedings, the five say not a word (neither does the president) while the accolades flutter up from the floor. They just sit there silently, like royalty.

The selection this year was pretty solid, not a bum among. But jeez, look at this bunch of geezers: Springsteen (token rocker/boy-next-door) was the youngest at 60 (he definitely dyes his hair), followed by DeNiro (token tough guy) at 67, Bumbry (token Negro) at 72, Brooks (token Jew) at 77, and Brubeck (token egghead), celebrating his 89th the day of the show.

The highlights were an interesting mix of high- and low-brow:

Harvey “this guy called me a mook” Keitel’s speech on DeNiro was mock-interrupted by Ben “Gay Focker” Stiller, who interrupted his own DeNiro spiel with “Holy crap, there’s Bruce Springsteen! BROOOCE! And that Nobel Prize guy …”, which our president laughed heartily at and then The President Of The United States BUMPED KNUCKLES with The Boss. That in itself should have been bizarre, but they seemed at ease with each other: the King Of Rock & Roll and Soul Brother #1.

Dave Brubeck, who introduced the rhythms and time signatures of Morocco, Turkey, India and other exotic locales to the world of Western music, smiled ecstatically as a combo made up of his four sons played a medley of his tunes.

Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin introduced Grace Bumbry, the first black opera singer to play Venus, which caused quite a stir in the early 1960s. Her highlight reel was illuminating and astounding. Grace was a real babe in her day, and easily looked 20 years younger than her 72.

The weirdness started with Mel Brooks’ tribute. Old pal Carl Reiner kicked things off, followed by Harry Connick Jr. singing “High Anxiety”, Jack Black belting out “Men in Tights”, and a small production of “The Inquisition” sketch from History of the World, Part I. Sure wish Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle were around to sing “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.

Then someone from the Broadway cast of The Producers dedicated the next song to Barack Obama, and it was called “Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst”. I kept waiting for the TV cameras to show a reaction shot from our president during the number, but none was forthcoming.

It got even stranger with a full-blown production of The Producers‘ “Springtime for Hitler” with the dancing girls wearing the big sausages on their heads and all, followed by the cast’s führer doing his mincing little dance bit. This caused the night’s best reaction shot: Mel Brooks grinning fiendishly while his date looked on in open-mouthed horror and disbelief. It could possibly have been the most tastelessly hysterical extravaganza ever staged for a U.S. president (no Obama shots during this part, either).

The high point of the evening arrived when they said “Ladies and gentlemen, Mel Brooks!” and the whole room applauded while Brooks stood up, took out his pocket comb, made a Hitler moustache out of it and seig-heiled all present. While Travis Bickle laughed and clapped next to him. Surreal. They saved Bruce for last. It started out classy enough, with Ron Kovic, the wheelchair-bound author of Born on the Fourth of July relating his first meeting with Springsteen, followed by fellow Jerseyite Jon “Death To Smoochy” Stewart delivering his own funny and surprisingly heartfelt tribute.

It went straight down the crapper from there. Dig it: John Mellencamp sang “Born in the U.S.A.” (blah); Melissa Etheridge growled her way through an overblown “Born to Run” (BLAH!); Eddie Vedder softly grunted “My City of Ruin” (sorta OK); and the grand finale? STING (Sting?) led a gospel choir through “The Rising” (BLEARGGGHHH!), during which the audience was on their feet and clapping bouncily on the one, just like when Fleetwood Mac played “Don’t Stop” at Clinton’s inaugural all those years ago, proving once again the great majority of rich white folks have no boogie in their butts.

When Hollywood or Broadway or any other large showbiz institution tries to pay tribute to rock & roll, they always get it wrong, and tonight was no exception. “Let’s have a bunch of singers with gruff voices doing songs about America” was really about as far as The Kennedy Center’s understanding of Bruce Springsteen and his music went. They didn’t even mention the E Street Band, which probably would have been the first words out of Bruce’s mouth, had he been allowed to speak.

But that’s OK, rock & roll has its own hall of fame, which Iggy Pop isn’t a member of yet. Go figure that one out.

A Tale of Two Stations

Tony Ballz

Here in scenic historic whitebread Flagstaff, I believe it is one’s civic duty to improve one’s surroundings however one can in order to make one’s community more … umm, human? Tolerable? Not sucky? What’s the opposite of depressing? I’m currently involved with two radio stations, one imaginary (sort of) and one real (sort of).

A while ago I decided to stop bitching about how utterly awful Flagstaff’s airwaves are (OK, I still do that) and get off my duff and contribute to their beautification. Radio Free Flagstaff is the brainchild of Noise contributor and local broadcaster John Abrahamsen. RFF is designed as a community-access station open to all, no experience necessary. John has a much more eloquent statement of purpose on our website In a nutshell: send us money. Please. We need to get on the air. It will be worth it, promise and swear to God.

Ideally, Radio Free Flagstaff will broadcast 24/7 with a signal as strong as any other local station. And y’all are invited! Let’s get it together, boys and girls! The FCC will be listening so we have to keep it kind of clean, but subversive is A-OK, encouraged even.

The fact that a city the size of Flagstaff (stop calling it a town) doesn’t already have community radio is ludicrous. Remember when there was a local television station with a nightly newscast? No? That’s because it went off the air fifteen years ago and never came back on. We’ll speculate on why that happened another time.

In December 2010, Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act, which basically loosens the FCC’s stranglehold on the FM dial and encourages small towns to start their own grassroots stations with a local slant. We’re on the list for approval, just need to get that bread together.

Frank Chipotel and I started doing shows in September 2010. We’re like two of those wacky AM DJs, except funny and with WAY better music. I do silly voices and Frank gets grumpy and yells a lot. And we bring in good tunes. There’s tons of other quality programming posted as well.

If you’ve ever seen a radio station on TV or in a movie, that’s where we record. It’s cluttered but clean. It has a broadcast booth with fairly expensive mikes and headphones and a bunch of mysterious electronics (I try not to touch too many knobs), a central office/meeting room with a door, and a general “bullpen” area with several desks.

There’s radio-centered effluvia everywhere: trade magazines, framed certificates and awards on the walls, stacks of promotional CDs and Public Service Announcements, a utility closet with all sorts of wires and stuff, sports knick-knacks, filing cabinets, and a huge satellite dish out in the parking lot about three dumpsters tall surrounded by a concrete barrier with a locked gate. You need a key or a security code to get in to the studio. The public restroom is usually cleaner than mine at home and it’s always empty. I’ve had several satisfying bathroom experiences in there.

The whole place screams “professional”. As I said, just like the movies.

My other gig is on KWHY (106.9 FM), a pirate station with a low enough wattage to fly under the FCC’s radar. Heading south from downtown, the signal dies around Wal-Mart; heading east, around 4th Street. A girl we know started it but then she moved and now I don’t think anyone is in charge.

KWHY is located somewhere most of us have lived, usually in our early 20s: The Party House. There’s five or six roommates and several dogs and cats cohabitating there. Every week or two they’ll have bands play in the living room while dozens of drunk punks roam the premises and break stuff and knock over beers and pee in the yard and fall down.

The day I started doing my show was the first time I had ever seen the place empty. I’m never sure if the people I meet live there or are just hanging out. The recycling bins are ridiculous; this single household may be the Pabst Blue Ribbon company’s best customer in Flagstaff.

I don’t think they ever lock the front door. Everybody just walks in, no one knocks. The kitchen is usually pretty horrific. I’ve never had the courage to sit down on their toilet. There’s a second bathroom in back by the broadcasting equipment, but it’s been out of service for months and stinks really bad so the door is kept shut.

Sometimes there’s a group practicing two rooms over that completely drowns out my show and I have to either put on headphones or give up and go home. I bring my own headphones because the ones there are broken in half. The whole joint usually smells like spilled beer and/or week-old trash. They could really use one of those hand-san dispenser. The transmitter is about the size of a paperback book. It came from Radio Shack and only requires a two-prong plug for electricity. From it, a cable runs between the washer and dryer in the next room, out a hole in a window screen, and up to the antenna on the roof.

The main amplifier is the same kind of receiver I have for my stereo at home (meaning nothing fancy). There’s two turntables, a CD player, a dual cassette deck with one of the doors missing, a two channel DJ mixer with a cheapo built-in microphone, and a four-way junction box that includes an 1/8 inch plug for an MP3 player or laptop. Except for the transmitter and the dish, all the equipment could have been found at Savers or Goodwill or a garage sale. A lot of it is held together with duct tape.

How do you know you’re on the air? You simply tune the station in on a portable radio/CD player, the kind with two inch speakers that ten year old girls get for their birthdays, and crank that sucker up. Not too loud, or the mic will start feeding back.

The entire operation gets its juice from a single power strip (piggybacking a second one) with an adaptor on the end going into a two-prong wall socket. That’s it. The whole damn station. The first time I came in there, the plug was hanging out at a 45 degree angle. I rigged it with some duct tape so now it sits full in the outlet.

Your grandma has a better stereo setup than this. So does the average technophobe. Everything looks like it might fall apart at any minute. Sometimes it does.

THIS IS HOW EASY IT IS TO GET ON THE RADIO. When you don’t need a license, that is.

When no one’s broadcasting live, the iTunes shuffle is on. The DJs and residents of the party house have packed it full of goodness from our personal collections. Sometimes I’ll be listening at 2 or 3 AM and some truly WEIRD people will be on that mic.

Like I said, KWHY’s wattage is so low the FCC has no jurisdiction over it. That means we can play and say whatever we want. The first time I uttered the f-word on the air was quite liberating. I immediately said it six more times in a row, just because it felt so damn good. The novelty hasn’t worn off yet.

Wednesdays are my night. I cart over about 30 LPs and a handful of CDs from home. I’ve always wanted to hear bands like Husker Du, Mission of Burma, Big Black, Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu, The Melvins, Guided by Voices, Skinny Puppy, Bastro, The Fall, Gang of Four, and Pere Ubu on the radio and now I’ve made it happen. Sometimes I talk, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the albums skip really bad. Sometimes the needle gets all fuzzy and you have to lift it off the record and go brrt brrt with your finger and put it back on.

The other week I played nothing but Frank Zappa for four solid hours. It was awesome. I’m thinking of bringing in Live at Carnegie Hall 1961 by Lenny Bruce and spinning the whole thing, all six sides. Maybe follow it with some Lord Buckley. It really frees you up when you realize no one is listening except maybe the other DJs.

There is one major difference between the two projects. All the shows we’ve done for Radio Free Flagstaff have been recorded and edited and are available on the website. I have MP3 copies of them on my hard drive.

When I broadcast on KWHY, the words and music are released into the ether and then they’re just gone, whether or not anyone out there is hearing them. It’s a moment in time that passes undocumented.

My greatest fear for RFF and KWHY is that they succumb to the Flagstaff Curse. It goes like this: Everyone sits around bitching about how everything sucks now and how cool it was back in the day. Something new with potential for greatness pops up. Those involved try to get people excited about it. People get into it for a while, the excitement wanes, the new thing dies. Everyone sits around bitching about how everything sucks now and how cool it was back in the day. Repeat.

Radio Free Flagstaff and KWHY may have radically different approaches, but the intended result is the same: to let the voices of our community be heard. No matter how incoherent they are.

Except for KZXK (98.9 FM), all of Flagstaff’s radio stations are corporate owned. That means they are all driven by one goal: profit. None of them are interested in doing anything beneficial for our city. But some of us are.

Maybe if we yell loud enough, someone will hear us.

High Life in the Pines Indie Music Festival: Featuring Lit

Tony Ballz

The following occurred at the Pepsi Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill, Flagstaff Aug. 26-27, 2011. The names have been changed to protect the irrelevant. Lit were awesome! What a great show! Alright, I’m lying. I didn’t see them at all but that’s OK because I don’t care for their music and I was at the venue for less than two hours and I only saw 1 1/2 bands and I got in for free.

In fact, I could probably name 62,784 things off the top of my head that I would rather do than see Lit in concert, such as: clean the oven, cut the dead skin off my toes, talk to myself, watch the paint peel, have a root canal without Novocain, or go to bed at 7:30.

I had a friend who lived in Flagstaff about 10 years ago who, although he was a pretty close bro, I have to admit had certain personality quirks which were a bit … well … douchey. Like listening to Lit.

He’s the kind of man who would put his pinky and index finger together, lick the tips, place them on his forehead, and splay them apart, thus grooming both his left and right eyebrow at the same time.

He’s the kind of man who listened to a radio station like the Q and watched the WB channel every night before going downtown so he could talk to college girls about subjects they were into. I don’t think all this was just to get laid; I think he actually enjoyed this stuff. He did get hella laid though, probably because he was young and thin and outgoing and good looking and worked at a bar.

One time we were at The Joint (he was serving me drinks and I was drinking them) when Lit’s current hit single “My Own Worst Enemy” came on the jukebox. He broke into a wide smile.

“Ah, here’s my song!”


“Yeah dude, this song is totally me.”


“‘Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk’ … hell yeah, that’s me all over.”

It sort of bummed me out. I loved this guy. One night he and I stayed up till 5 AM getting ripped on tequila and looking up every disgusting sexual practice we could think of on Wikipedia and reading the entries aloud. He was that kind of brah.

I resigned myself to saying a silent prayer that on judgment day, the gods of quality music would have mercy on his soul.

So yeah, Lit. I found it humorous that their biggest hits were on RCA and they were appearing at the Greedy Corporate Bastards Amphitheater headlining an indie music festival.

How in the hell did they stretch this into a two day event? I’d never heard any of the other out-of-town bands on the bill, but then again I don’t listen to the Q. The local bands were fairly solid and I suppose this was good exposure for them. Deepa are nice peepa and I hear Dave McGraw and Crow Wing are pretty swell as well.

Anywhoo, the reason I was there was because Frankie C’s band got called up at the last minute to play on Saturday afternoon and I had the day off and they put me on the guest list and I figured what the hell, this should be an interesting sociological experiment.

Frankie’s combo plays hopped-up Who/Kinks inspired rawk and rowl just the way I like it: with lots of Keith Moony drum fills and reverb guitar and fuzz bass and songs about how good chicks look. Drummer Stewart is an actual British person who rides an actual Vespa and that accent of his is so damn charming that I almost want to take him to bed every time I hear it. Guitarist Rocky is a cop and he scares the living hell out of me.

Just kidding, Rocky’s a great guy. We do have to hide all the cocaine when he comes over, though.

I arrived at Fort Tuthill ready to rock the lawn with two lovely ladies in tow. OK, one was Frankie’s wife. And the other was Stewart’s. I’m a real happenin’ dude.

This was my first visit to the former Pine Mountain Ampitheater (still can’t seem to use the new name) and it was pretty sweet, just the kind of large but intimate venue perfect for Ween or Willie or Weird Al. Too bad there were only about 30 people there.

The lads were onstage setting up, so Mrs. C and I went for refreshments (Fat Tire for me, Blue Moon for her) and I noticed two very bored-looking girls sitting at the Fight The Quiet merch table, right next to the guy frying burgers.

We returned to the grassy knoll. The MC introducing the band made some smarmy comment about the sharp dressed men onstage (their uniform is: black tie, white shirt, blue jeans. Pretty snazzy really, guess they weren’t wearing enough black for him) and then it was rockin’ time. The ladies and I debated moving up closer, but decided watching them from the lawn would be a more pleasantly bizarre experience.

The sound was fairly loud and clear, but they had that problem where all of the drums and cymbals are individually miked and the sound guy doesn’t know how to make the whole kit blend together. For example, the rack tom was mixed about 3 notches higher than the snare and floor tom, so every time Stewart did one of his Keith Moon snare/rack/floor fills it sounded like this: dudududu DADADADA dudududu. The cymbals were pretty much nonexistent. Other than that, it was OK.

At one point, Stewart said something clever and British into the mic and I told Mrs. S about the time Stewart told a joke onstage at the Monte V that involved a cookie jar, only instead of saying cookie jar he said biscuit barrel, and she and I giggled like schoolgirls over that.

Biscuit barrel. See what I mean? That’s just sexy.

Some MENSA reject in the audience actually yelled “Free Bird!” at the band (I was yelling for “Substitute” and “Pinball Wizard”) and the boys were on top of it. Frankie responded: “Why don’t we leave the stage and YOU come up here and play ‘Free Bird’?”, and Stewart chimed in with: “Sorry, I’m British. I don’t even know what that song is.” I might just steal that last one.

They played a pretty quick set (“My Little Red Book” sounded great from the lawn) and it was over. While they packed up the gear, I grabbed another Fat Tire and Mrs. C bought a pretzel but we had to wait almost five minutes for the guy to change the cheese bag and when she finally got it the cheese was all cold and glutenous. The FTQ girls hadn’t moved.

We hobnobbed with the band on the side of the stage while the next act was setting up. I noticed the singer had one of those flat bodied acoustic guitars like Dave Matthews plays and I thought “Uh-oh”. We told Rocky he should wear his policeman’s uniform at the next show just like the guy in 400 Blows but for real and he said he’d think about it. Frankie informed me there was free food and beer backstage and he went and got me a complimentary brewski.

I don’t remember the name of the next group, but it was just as I feared: 20-something white guys playing limp hippie jazz/funk/rap/whatever. The singer enthused about how great it was to be back in Flag; they had all gone to school here and now lived in the valley. Super. They tried to muster up a little enthusiasm in the face of the poor turnout.

During one tune, the singer told the bass player to “get funky”; he responded with a slap bass solo worthy of the guy from Seinfeld. Right about the time they encouraged us to count how many beer references were in the next song, I started wondering why my formerly-good Fat Tire buzz was turning ugly and I realized the freebie I was drinking was Miller Hi-Life. I poured the remainder into Frankie’s cup (“But it’s FREE, dude!” So is botulism bro, and I don’t want that either). As I threw my cup away, the singer was rapping: “I took out my Steel Reserve and Nut Browned all over her face” and it made me physically wince.

Mrs. C and I were itching to get in the van and leave and Frankie was itching for more free beer, so we went backstage in order to be closer to both. Right before we did it dawned on me that the guy with the porkpie hat onstage was the band’s BEATBOXER and I wondered how one goes about landing a gig like that. Probably pretty easy in Phoenix.

Backstage, the percentage of really skinny white guys all in black with jet-black dyed spiky hair and that “I’m in a band” attitude went through the roof. I had never seen so many of them all together in one place before, it was like a big douchebag convention. At first I figured these were all the Phoenix bands, but then remembered how many of these dorks I’d seen around town and decided the look is pretty universal.

I was eyeing the free food tent when an official-looking meathead came up and semi-apologetically told us: “Steve says everyone backstage has to have red wristbands” and I almost responded: “Well, tell ol’ Steve to bust ‘em out then, let’s go!” I mean, what did he think we were going to do back there? “Ooh, there’s Fight The Quiet! Get their autographs, I’m too nervous.”

Almost on cue, it started raining. The douchebags were looking pretty bummed (all that runny hair gel) and we gladly jumped in the van and bailed. As we drove away, I reflected on my High Life In The Pines Indie Music Festival experience and came to the following conclusions:

a) Never start with Fat Tire and end with Miller Low-Life. It’s like going to bed with Salma Hayek and waking up with Elmer Fudd.

b) “Douchebag Convention” is a fantastic name for a band. Maybe they’ll be headlining next year’s festival.

At home, I felt so shitty that I was asleep by 7:30.

Danzig, Black Sabbath and Jesus

Tony Ballz

Step into the Wayback Machine, Sherman, and set those dials for the glory daze of Flagstaff’s punk scene, about ‘93-‘94ish. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Life in The Mothership with me, Dave N, and our rotating third roommate wasn’t all dance parties, cheap drugs, getting loaded with touring bands, casual sex with high school girls, and running down O’Leary street naked in the snow.

Many an evening found us sitting in our tiny living room, staring into space and bored out of our skulls. Money was scarce. Prank phone calls (in the days before caller-ID) were always dependable cheap fun, but after you’ve dialed the Village Inn and asked for the hair pie twice in a week, what’s left?

We had plenty of music, but the lack of visual stimulation was usually the issue. Cable TV was a luxury and the VCR worked about half the time. The internet didn’t exist (in Flagstaff, anyway). Dave and our friend Clea were aficionados of bad ‘80s movies, and I was fortunate enough to work in a store that had plenty of them for rent (free to employees, of course).

Fully enjoyable was the double feature of Grease II (starring Adrian “The Zmed” Zmed and the screen debut of Michelle “The Fife” Pfeiffer) and The Pirate Movie (featuring Kristy McNichol, the guy from The Blue Lagoon, and the onscreen rape of both Gilbert AND Sullivan), the pain set in around hour three of the Swayze film festival but that blind boy sure plays a mean guitar, I tell you what.

And when all else failed, there was good ol’ broadcast television. Yep, wrap them rabbit ears in aluminum foil and off we go. Flagstaff used to have TWO local stations (and we never thought in a million years BOTH of them would disappear): channel 2 was an NBC affiliate with Flag’s only local newscast (and we never thought in a million years we’d be living in a city without a local newscast), while channel 13 was a proud member of the Trinity Broadcast Network, known to us heathens as The Jesus Channel.

TBN was founded by professional clowns and hypocrites Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in the 1970s, and by the 1990s it was a flourishing industry, with dozens of affiliates all over this great Christian white-bread country of ours.

Dave and I would watch The Jesus Channel for HOURS and hours. It was our best entertainment value. We never got tired of the constant barefaced greed and arrogance, the bad music, bad hairpieces, bad makeup, bad sets … not to mention all the variations of TBN’s core message: “If you don’t want to go to hell, SEND US YOUR MONEY NOW. That’s right, God can be bought. Heaven is on sale. Eternal paradise is only a personal check away.” All you had to do was pretend these people weren’t real and it was more yuks than Saturday Night Live.

Dave always got a kick out of the fact that TBN’s logo sort of looked like the cover of A Night at the Opera by Queen. When the logo flashed on the screen, Dave would hold the album up next to the TV and we would laugh and laugh. Good cheap American fun.

The televangelists could get really grating, but it was a good night if we caught one of the faith healer yoyos who would bring up a member of their hillbilly audience afflicted with rickets or the gout and SMACK ’em upside the head to drive them Commie demons out. That will be $500, please.

Far and away, our favorite comedian on The Jesus Channel was a guy named Jeff Fenholt. He stood out from the other sweaty child molester types on TBN. Everything about him screamed aging head banger. He was well into his 40s, with a moon face framed by a curly blond rocker mullet. He looked like he belonged behind the counter at Guitar Center ringing up a strap lock and a dozen picks while cranking some Yngwie.

The Holt’s dubious claims to metal authenticity were: a) he played you-know-who in the original 1971 Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar (true, although his understudy Ted Neeley landed the movie role), and b) he was the lead singer of Black Sabbath for about two weeks in the mid-1980s.

This was refuted by Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, who stated he and Fenholt worked on some demos for a proposed Iommi solo album during a Sabbath hiatus, but that Jeff was never an official member of the band. Fenholt claims Sabbath manager Don Arden (Sharon Osbourne’s father) told him otherwise, and apparently that was enough for him to name drop Black Sabbath whenever possible on the air.

He had a “sexy” feud going on with some Wiccan priestess in Wisconsin. He would say her name and growl into the camera: “I’m coming for you, baby. Oh yes, I am.” He made a big deal out of actually flying to Wisconsin with cameraman in tow, but she went: “(Ding!) Restraining order!” and that was that.

Whether or not he was actually in the greatest heavy metal band in the world and renounced their hell-bound ways for a life filled with Jesus, one fact was inarguable: Jeff Fenholt was a douchebag.

One night Fenholt announced he and his Christian metal group (who never appeared with him on TBN, hmmm …) were touring and spreading the Good Word, perhaps even playing in your neck of the woods. We laughed and said wouldn’t it be great if The Holt was coming here? Then they showed the tour dates, and there it was: Flagstaff, Arizona. Dave and I stared at each other open-mouthed.

“No F^#ing way!”

[word “fucking” edited by the editor]

“Dude, we’re going.”

“Oh HELL yeah, we’re going.”

It should probably be mentioned at this point that Dave and I were singular in our passion for TBN and all things Fenholt. Most of our friends didn’t get it. “How can you guys WATCH this crap? OK, once in a while for a laugh, but EVERY NIGHT?” JRo would hole up in his room when we had it on. Clea gave it a shot, but couldn’t hack it.

Luckily, Primitive Tribes frontman and armchair anarchist Sasha Davis was cut from the same cloth as we, and was just as excited at the imminent arrival of The Man Himself to our shit town. Between the three of us (and several 12-packs of Olympia), a plan was hatched: on the day of the event, we would amass a battalion of local punks, get rip roaring drunk, righteously march into wherever the show was, and scream out the most obnoxious offensive blasphemous profanities imaginable at Mr. Bigshot Mullethead Jesus Rocker Guy and let him know THIS was the face of Flagstaff and that he sucked a big hairy gorilla weiner and so did his band and so did everyone at TBN.

Like I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

About a week before the showdate, fliers started popping up around town:


There was an eastside address and a photo of The Holt’s face leering maliciously at you through his curly blond mullet. Absent were the following words: God, Jesus, holy, church, Christian, Trinity Broadcast Network, and douchebag.

It was laughable, and we laughed. Did this guy think we were total rubes who just fell off the turnip truck and that we would be fooled by his clever ruse and show up expecting a rockin’ good Satanic evening and instead be hit BLAM! with the Lord’s healing power? What a dick.

I tacked a flyer up on our living room wall and The Holt’s glowering mug was immediately defaced with bloody fangs, whited-out eyes, a forehead pentagram, and a speech balloon reading “I Y Satan”. Again, we were REALLY bored.

The first seed of doubt was planted when I rode past the address on the flyer and yep, sure enough, it was a church. Dave and Sasha didn’t care: “Great! It’ll make our blasphemy more blasphemous. And hey, you grew up Catholic … haven’t you always wanted to be drunk in church?”

I had to admit I did.

The next seed of doubt came during our futile attempts to get ANYONE interested in coming along. “Uhh … you’re going to go into a church drunk and HECKLE some guy? Have fun.”

The great day finally arrived, and I raced home from work to find that our army of drunk punks consisted of: me, Dave, Sasha, Clea (our driver and always a good sport), and special guest Mario, undisputed king of the Flag Fiends, worshipper at the altar of Danzig and all things unholy, and future local musician. Oh, and our fuel consisted of a single 12-pack of Olympia between the five of us (did I mention we were really broke?).

These days you can get a pleasant conversation out of Mario, but back then all you got were two or three mumbled words and a silent devilocked glare through a haze of cigarette smoke. I believe on that fateful day he had just stopped by our house to see what was going on and Dave and Sasha hornswaggled him into coming along. The two of them could be quite persuasive.

We polished off the beer and piled into Clea’s little Toyota. The final seed of doubt was finding the church parking lot PACKED full of cars, and the thought “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea” flew across my mind. The church’s doors were wide open but no metal, Christian or otherwise, was emanating. Posted at the doors were the Sweater Zombies, and their eyes lit up at the sight of us.

“Hey! Thanks for coming! WOW! Here, let us get you seats DOWN IN FRONT!!!”

“NO!!!” we all shrieked. We told them we could find our own seats, thank you very much, and stepped inside.

The church was pretty full. I estimated the mean age of the crowd to be about twelve. They all turned around and gaped at us. I flashed back to my Catholic school days and thought, these kids probably have to be here. Well, they don’t HAVE to, but it was STRONGLY SUGGESTED by their parents and teachers that they attend.

The Holt was at the lectern and his spiel barely missed a beat. Some of the kids started giggling, but Fenholt ignored our arrival and spieled on, drawing the little ones’ attention back to him. The guy was a pro.

We stood frozen at the back of the church. Where was his band? We didn’t see amps or a drum set or any equipment normally associated with rock and/or roll. Just an altar, candles, the tabernacle that housed the Body of Our Savior … church stuff. This was unquestionably the last place on Earth I wanted to be. I said goodbye to the remnants of my two beer buzz.

Dave led us to a spot along the far right aisle, about halfway down. We tried to be inconspicuous, but it was impossible. Anyone who didn’t know we were there before did now, and the giggling started again. The first one in the pew was Mario and you should’ve seen those kids scoot.

Fenholt kept ignoring us. I can’t recall one word of his speech, but I can make a pretty good guess as to its content.

We were obviously the hit of the evening, or rather Mario was. He was definitely the only one present with a leather jacket or devilock. Kids kept turning around and whispering and giggling. Dave and Sasha were nonplussed. Clea and I were a bit shellshocked, but kept straight faces. Mario was slouched so far down next to me he was almost horizontal. He looked like he wanted his body to implode upon itself and collapse into a pile of smoldering ash.

After about ten painful minutes, Clea whispered:

“I need a cigarette.”

I whispered back, “I’ll join you.”

I told Mario what we were doing and the three of us stood up and tried to walk over Dave and Sasha. They decided they needed one too. As we all filed out of the pew, Fenholt stopped mid-spiel and addressed us directly:

“Aw come on, where are you guys going? You don’t have to leave!”

Dave turned, looked at Jeff Fenholt and said loudly:

“Oh, we’re just going for a smoke, we’ll be right back!”

It was one of the funniest things I had ever heard him say and I started cracking up. The impudence in Dave’s voice triggered something in those kids too, and the whole church erupted in laughter as we trooped up the aisle wearing stupid grins.

As we exited, I heard Fenholt trying to get his captive audience back, saying those guys came here expecting some heavy metal, but the REAL heavy metal is God’s … blah blah blah. I thought, tomorrow these kids are going to have some great stories to tell their friends who couldn’t make it (“Dude, you should’ve been there, it was AWESOME!”).

Outside, we lit up. The Sweater Zombies had followed us, and they ran the Divide And Conquer. Dave and Sasha each had three or four of them buzzing around. Dave sounded like he was making some headway with his bunch:

“TBN and the Church always want your money, but look at all that expensive jewelry and stuff they wear. Doesn’t the Bible say ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ and ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’? You know, Jesus and the Apostles were dirt poor. They were fishermen and carpenters, they weren’t rich …”

“Hey … you’re RIGHT!”

We found out that Jeff’s band couldn’t make it, but out of the goodness of his heart he decided to come anyway and, you know, just TALK to the kids. What a guy.

I smoked and tried to put on my best “don’t come near me or I’ll kill you” face, but one of them spotted me, smiled widely, and approached with outstretched hand. About 3 steps in, his hand fell and so did his face.

“Hey, there’s a …”

I followed his gaze and observed Mario with his back turned to us, in the classic “man about to have a piss” stance.

“… restroom in the …”

Too late. All conversation stopped, and we listened to Mario pee for a few seconds. The Danzig skull logo stared hollow-eyed at us from the back of his jacket. The expressions on the faces of the Sweater Zombies were priceless. I was shocked, but I felt like applauding. The words “all right” may have passed my lips. Dave, Sasha, Clea and I met each others’ eyes and the same thought ran through all our heads:


It was perfect. Mario didn’t actually relieve himself ON the church, just by a shrub planted next to the front doors, but the effect was the same. I don’t know if his intention was to make it a big sacrilegious thing, he probably just had to take a whiz. Nevertheless, it was a fitting comment on the evening’s events. The last word, so to speak. I only wish The Holt could have seen it.

Our cigarettes were done and so was Mario. The sweater Zombies nervously invited us back inside.

“I’m not going back in there.”

It was Mario’s voice, and he wasn’t mumbling. The words weren’t loud, but they were quite clear. His statement was not scared or angry, it was matter-of-fact, like “It’s raining today”.

I decided I had had enough as well. I also realized at that particular moment I needed to smoke a bowl more than I ever had in my life. I asked Clea for her keys and said we would be hanging out by the car.

Our group split up. Mario and I walked to Clea’s car and got inside. I looked at him.

“Wow. That sucked.”


We sat in silence. I loaded a bowl and puffed away. A short time later the driver’s side door opened and Clea got in.

 “Let’s get out of here.”

“What about Dave and Sasha?”

“They’re staying. They said they were having fun.”


As we drove away, I had a mental image of a group of Sweater Zombies in front of the church the next morning holding crucifixes and one of those incense things on a chain, uprooting the tainted shrubbery (to be burned and its ashes scattered) and dousing the ground with holy water.

Apparently after we left, our punker friends Chris and Matt showed up at the church drunker than hell and implored Fenholt to heal them of their alcoholism. It almost made me wish I’d hung around.

I lost my taste for the Trinity Broadcast Network. Seeing that those people actually existed kind of killed the humor.

In 1997 it was revealed that in the late 1970s, Jeff Fenholt was a “boy toy” of the late Gala Dali, widow of Salvador. In her declining years, she was notorious for having a stable of young male lovers, setting them up financially in exchange for sexual favors. She paid Fenholt with several of Dali’s paintings and a million dollar Long Island house. Gala was in her 80s, Jeff in his 20s.

The resulting brouhaha caused Fenholt to disappear from TBN for several years. He eventually made a triumphant comeback, his sins forgiven and his mullet shorn.

Guided by Voices: Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix 6/15/14

Tony Ballz

There isn’t much happening in this whitebread shitkicker state that makes me want to leave my comfortable womb up here in Cowtown. Guided By Voices playing in Phoenix on a Sunday night did the trick.

Bro and I do not own vehicles so we hopped aboard the shuttle on a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, excited at the serious drinkin’ and rockin’ soon to commence. As usual, I zonked out by Munds Park and woke up around Black Canyon City. I managed not to drool on my Bill Hicks t-shirt.

We arrived at the airport and stepped into the oppressive Phoenix heat. I felt a vague urge to hibernate during the day and stay up all night on schwag speed. We took the Sky Train to the Light Rail, which was well-maintained and convenient but only because it was 7pm and our destination was literally one block from the Van Buren station.

Several of my Valley friends have waxed poetic regarding the wonders of Phoenix’s timid foray into public transportation: “I just hopped right on and it dropped me a mile from my house! Isn’t that awesome?”

No, it’s not. The Light Rail might qualify for awesome if this was 1964. For a metropolis in 2014 with 4.3 million residents, it’s pathetic. Other U.S. cities have buses and trains that take you anywhere you want, anytime. Here in good ol’ Arizonee the whole damn system shuts down from midnight til 6am. Why? Because you kids should be home asleep, that’s why. Only lowlifes are awake that late.

As the sun set, we sat on the Crescent Ballroom’s patio and consumed beers and shots and tacos while enjoying the Downtown Phoenix Aging Hipster Parade. I discovered one of Bro’s shameful secrets: he’s a beaner who hates cilantro. May God have mercy on your eternal soul, Bro.

We saw a woman with a GBV tattoo and got excited. Our vague hopes of finding two available ladies (of any age) who were rabid fans of drunk power pop performed by men in their 50s were dashed when we remembered where we were.

For the unenlightened, Guided By Voices is a rock band from Dayton, Ohio that has intermittently existed since 1983. The man behind the curtain is 56-year-old Robert Ellsworth Pollard Jr: former 4th grade English teacher and mild mannered family man by day, beer chuggin’, mike twirlin’, high kickin’, rock and roll golden god by night.

GBV’s reputation rests on their energetic sloppy alcohol-fueled marathon live shows, and the Phoenix gig sure delivered. Toward the beginning of the set, Pollard uncapped an ice cold handle of tequila, took a few gulps, and surrendered the rest to the audience. I had trouble deciding which songs to miss for a bathroom run. I would be mid-pee and hear them start a real good one and curse my weak bladder.

And holy crap, they played Motor Away and Game Of Pricks and Echos Myron and Teenage FBI and Tractor Rape Chain and A Good Flying Bird and Gold Star For Robot Boy and Exit Flagger and A Salty Salute and Wished I Was A Giant and Awful Bliss and 14 Cheerleader Coldfront and The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory and Cut-Out Witch and I Am A Scientist … about 40 tunes in all. Goddamn!

From a high like that there was nowhere to go but down, and down we went. Bro got into an argument with a bartender and they all glared as we inhaled our post-show nachos. We had to catch the earliest shuttle home since Bro worked in the morning, so back to the airport we did go. Of course it was past midnight, no train or bus, so a cab was our only option.

Sky Harbor to Crescent Ballroom via Light Rail = $4 (2 tickets)

Crescent Ballroom to Sky Harbor via taxi = $24 + tip

Fuck you, Phoenix.

Sky Harbor Airport is probably the only public spot in the Valley where two drunken lunatics like us could wander around at 2am without getting arrested. I highly recommend it. We didn’t go sliding down the luggage ramps or anything, we just had the complete run of Terminal Four without one sign of Airport Security. It kind of felt like The Langoliers.

We did manage to smoke a bowl outside in the departures area. I dimly recall yelling “GBV!” through the empty tunnel while eating leftover nachos. Somewhere in here we discovered the Starbucks was open and I got a tasty iced chai. Then we went back outside and smoked another bowl.

It was fun until the booze wore off, then it sucked. We still had hours to kill, so Bro crashed on the floor while I slumped in a chair like a sack of spuds. When 7am rolled around we found that they had overbooked the shuttle, so eleven of us crammed into a vehicle designed for eight.

Sweating and hung over, I was wide awake the whole 3 hour ride up. The Korean tourist to my right kept falling asleep on my shoulder while Bro lost his lunch in a plastic bag directly behind me. After finally disembarking, I rode my bike homeward into some of the worst gale-force winds I’d ever experienced in Flagstaff.

I got home, drank about a half-gallon of water and fell in bed. I said a quick prayer to Jah for Bro and the workday ahead of him. Luckily I was unemployed and had no such responsibilities.

Maybe I should get a car.

Your Pets Don’t Love You

Your Pets Don't Love You
Tony Ballz

Many years ago, I had a huge black and white cat named Tux who stuck with me through some lean times. He was the first of several felines that I successfully trained to do their business outside instead of in a litterbox. He was a good cat.

That winter was a rough one. Money was scarce and none of us were eating well (or often), including ol’ Tux. One cold morning, I got up and walked into the kitchen to find my path blocked by the cat, who bore an expression on his face and a note in his voice I had never seen or heard before. He looked me straight in the eye and said:

“Oh, so you think you’re heading to the toilet, do you? Oh no no no no no, hang on a second there monkey man, you ain’t going NOWHERE without feeding me THIS INSTANT right now. RIGHT. NOW. No, don’t try to pet me, I ain’t playin’ that game today.

“Listen, we have an understanding, you and me. You sleep in the bed, I sleep on the couch. You wake up and feed me, I eat. You leave and do whatever the hell it is you do all day, I take a nice eight hour nap in the yard, maybe climb a tree or chase a bug if I’m feeling ambitious. You come home and feed me again, I eat. We spend some quality time together: you get high and watch Star Trek and The Simpsons, I sit in your lap and allow you the luxury of scratching my ears and basking in my very presence. You sleep in the bed, I sleep on the couch. Pretty basic, really.

“So, what is your major malfunction here? IT IS TIME FOR ME TO EAT. NOW. I can’t even go outside and catch a rodent to nibble on because IT’S THE MIDDLE OF FREAKIN’ JANUARY. Why do you hate me? You know, I bet if I kept trying I could open one of those cans myself and it would save you a lot of … hey Hey HEY just what do you … oh go ahead just step over me, go right ahead, you asshole. Enjoy that piss, think I’ll go shit in your headphones. Meow, motherfucker.”

That account may be slightly embellished, but it’s pretty close. In response, I attempted to access whatever primitive wavelength cats and humans communicate on and told him:

“I’m sorry, cat. You’re right, I am an asshole. But you’re wrong if you think I hate you. It won’t make you feel any better, but I’m hungry too. More than anything, I wish I could make you understand this: when I leave the house, I have to go this horrible place called “work” where they treat me like pond scum and systematically chip away at my dignity and self-worth day after day after day. Whenever they feel like it, they give me a little white piece of paper that I exchange for little green pieces of paper which I then exchange for food for you and me. Well, they don’t give me that little white piece of paper until Friday, and today is Monday.

“But we do have an understanding here, so as soon as I’m done in the bathroom I’m putting on my boots and three layers of clothes and trudging through the snow to Safeway, where I’m going to shoplift some 9-Lives for you. Nothing with egg, I know. That’s right, I’m risking jail time so you can eat. I’m placing your needs before mine. That’s because I love you, even though you can’t love me back. I’m OK with that. I’ll be home in an hour or so, please don’t shit in my headphones.”


I’ve been warned not to write this.

It was suggested that people might hate me for stating my opinion on this subject, but I don’t care. Hey, life would be dull without some turbulence once in a while. That being said …


Your dog doesn’t love you, and neither does your cat. Or your hamster, ferret, snake, goldfish, parakeet, or pet rock.

Love is a complex emotion, and there is only one species on this earth whose brain is developed enough to invent such a thing. Guess who that is?

What your dog feels towards you is not love, it’s a combination of several emotions, including obedience and affection, that do not add up to love.

Does a pig feel love? How about a dolphin? Ridiculous questions, right? Well, pigs and dolphins are smarter and more evolved creatures than dogs, so wouldn’t it make sense?

Now, I have no doubt that you love your pets. I love dogs and cats too. But we are HUMAN BEINGS with great big brains. We can do all sorts of things animals can’t, like fly airplanes, do calculus, play the xylophone and create nuclear warheads. WE CAN DESTROY THE EARTH and Rover can’t even figure out how to use a doorknob and thinks the vacuum cleaner is his enemy.

Do dogs and cats feel happy or sad? Certainly they do. Anyone who has house-sat for a friend can recognize a dog’s mopiness when his master is gone, as well as the elation when he returns. THIS ISN’T LOVE.

Here’s a scenario: You have two dogs, Homer and Marge. When they go into heat they copulate, and Marge has a litter of puppies and they’re one big happy doggie family. Now, let’s say one time Homer hops the back fence and goes roaming around the neighborhood. He runs into Fifi who is also in heat, and she commences with the usual “Hey there big boy, check THIS stuff out” business.

What does Homer do? Does he think, “Wait a minute … sure this li’l cutie wants to get down right now, but I’ve got a perfectly lovely mate back home. Heck, she’s even the mother of my offspring! This is not a good idea. I’m sorry, pretty lady, but I’m going to stay faithful to my wife.”? Does the GERM of this thought even enter his head? Does he even remember Marge at that moment? Is not getting it on even an option?

Of course not. Homer operates on mostly instinct, and the scent coming from that female is overwhelming to him and his ONLY thought is “Oh hell yeah baby, this shit’s happenin’ RIGHT here RIGHT now in the middle of the damn STREET, in front of God and all the neighbors, I don’t care. Cars are just going to have to drive around us.”

Let’s take this one step further and say that after these two are done and Homer says “Sorry babe, gotta go” and returns home, what does Marge do? Does she say “Whoa there buddy, where have YOU been? Let me smell your crotch … I knew it, it’s that bitch Fifi down the street, isn’t it? Oh, you ASSHOLE!” and slam the bedroom door and lock it and lay on the bed crying? No, she doesn’t.

Now go ahead and plug people into this scenario instead of dogs. That emotion/thought process that causes the male to turn down sex with an attractive female who isn’t his wife is called LOVE. His libido is telling him to go for it, but love is canceling that command. Likewise, the betrayal Marge is experiencing that causes her to cry on the bed is also rooted in love. Animals do not possess it. They don’t get jealous. They don’t stalk their ex-girlfriends. The only thing that can override instinct is training, and no one’s figured out how to train an animal to love yet.

“Well,” you say, “they feel the dog version of love.”

No, they don’t. “The dog version of love” is something humans invented because we WANT dogs to love us back. It’s easy to love pets because they respond to it so unconditionally, as long as you’re feeding them. There’s no strings attached. You don’t have to take them to stupid movies or pick up their soiled underwear or listen to their crappy music or spend Thanksgiving with their moronic family.

If you’re in a bad mood and your dog senses this and jumps on your lap and licks your face, you feel better and say: “Aww, thanks boy!” It really does cheer you up, but this is all going on in YOUR head, not his. He’s just reacting to your bad vibe and desiring of your affection (or more food).

Let’s say your dogs are running around the yard playing with a ball. A friend calls and asks what you’re doing.

“Oh, I’m just watching my dogs play soccer.”


“Well it’s the dog version of soccer, but yeah, they’re definitely playing soccer.”

When you take Rover for a walk and he sniffs all the places other dogs have peed, is he just logging on to the dog version of Facebook?

When you and Rover play fetch, is that the dog version of the 10 Minute Workout?

As long as we’re making shit up, we can probably find an animal parallel to nearly everything people do. You know, howling at the moon is just the dog version of opera singing.


I think the problem’s roots lie in cartoons. The anthropomorphic beasts striding around upright and cracking jokes in those old Disney and Warner Brothers reels caught the public’s fancy, and why not? They were clever, sarcastic, lovable creatures without a care in the world who consistently outsmarted the doofus humans who were always trying to keep them down. They were cool.

Don’t you wish bunnies could play the banjo? I do.

Didn’t you want to help the coyote catch the roadrunner and snap his little wiseass pencil neck in two? Of course! Beep beep THIS, fucker.

Wouldn’t it be sweet to do bong hits and tequila shots with Kermit the Frog? Hell yeah!

Did you believe in Snufulufugus? I did.

Was Big Bird a lesbian? Think about it.

Remember when Elmer Fudd blew Daffy Duck’s beak off with a shotgun and Daffy had to pick it up and snap it back on his head? That was funny.

Is Fozzie Bear the George Carlin of the animal kingdom? Probably.

 Doesn’t the comic strip “Marmaduke” suck? Yes, it does.

Worse than “Garfield”? That’s a tough one.

Don’t you want your dogs to wear fedoras, smoke cigars, drink whiskey, and play poker? Sure, you do. The image is almost irresistably cute. Even the crustiest old fogey would smile at that.

I would love to see a dog and cat band rockin’ out on guitars and drums while dressed up like KISS, that would be awesome. I’m not buying music lessons for Ol’ Roy and Mr. Mittens, though.

The Captain and Tennille Split Up: Millions Rejoice

Tony Ballz

Prescott, AZ—1970s pop stars The Captain and Tennille have called it quits. On January 23, 2014, keyboardist Daryl Dragon was served divorce papers by wife Toni Tennille at the couple’s Prescott home, effectively ending their 39 year marriage.

The duo were at the forefront of the “soft rock” movement, epitomized by the #1 singles “Love Will Keep Us Together” (1975) and “Do That To Me One More Time” (1979), as well as a half dozen other top ten hits. They were staples of 1970s television, even hosting their own short-lived variety show.

Over the last few weeks, The Captain And Tennille’s website had been deluged by supportive emails from all over the world. Here’s a sampling:

“They split up? Really? Oh thank you Jesus, thank you. I hope their divorce is drawn out and full of absolute misery. It might begin to approximate the misery they’ve inflicted upon humanity. What a couple of assholes. I guess love DIDN’T keep them together, hah? Ya get it?”

– Mrs. Arlene Muckenfuss (Barfing, England)

“Finally, the woman of my dreams is free! Oh Tennille, my Tennille! I can’t wait to feel your silky thighs wrapped around my … huh? She’s how old? SEVENTY-THREE? Aw shit, the hell with that. Anyone have Anne Murray’s number?”

– Pastor Emerson Bigguns (Jockstrap Junction, Iowa)

“Seventy-three? And he’s seventy? He probably cheated on her with the night nurse at the retirement home. One of ’em is gonna croak within five years, why didn’t they just run the clock out? I swear, old people suck. Guess love DIDN’T keep them together, hah? Ya get it?”

– Hugh G. Rection (East Jesus, Oklahoma)

“Wow, thirty-nine years. Just couldn’t hang on for one more, huh Tennille? ‘I don’t want anyone thinking I stayed with this loser for forty years, fuck that.’ What a heartless bitch. What’s she gonna do now, join a sexy grannies club?”

– Doug Niedermeyer (Faber, Illinois)

“I’ve worked in a dentist’s office with piped-in music for fifteen years and I swear to Christ, if I hear that goddamn “Muskrat Love” with that stupid chittering synthesizer ONE MORE TIME, I’m going to stab myself in the eye with a lobster fork. I guess love DIDN’T keep them together, hah? Ya get it?”

– Mrs. Louise Fussmucker (Prostate Heights, Michigan)

“They’re divorced? Good. Screw them and their ‘We’re still married’ bullshit. And screw them for writing “Love Will Keep Us Together”, I could fart out a better tune in my sleep … what? Neil Sedaka wrote that song? Well, screw him too. I hope the three of ’em roast in hell. Guess love DIDN’T keep them together, hah? Ya get it?”

– Mother Teresa (Inner Congo, Africa)

“Finally, the woman of my dreams is free! Oh Tennille, my Tennille! I can’t wait to feel your silky thighs wrapped around my … huh? She’s how old? SEVENTY-THREE? Aw shit, the hell with that. Anyone have Helen Reddy’s number?”

– Mohandas K. Gandhi (New Delhi, India)


Tony Ballz

Last month, Pope Francis shocked the world of Christianity by stating the concept of hell was merely a metaphor for being separated from God’s love and was not an actual place where sinners burned in eternal damnation, hosted by the little red guy with the horns and the pitchfork. Yesterday, the Pope had this to say:

“Gosh, we’re real real REAL sorry. We figured you morons would catch on a few centuries ago, what with the Age Of Enlightenment and all that, but it just kept going and no one wanted to let the cat out of the bag. Looks like I’m the bad guy now. Whaddya gonna do?

“So yeah, sorry about the fear and blind obedience and brainwashing we installed in everyone who actually believed this malarkey. Sorry about the skidillions of dollars we bilked out of all those ignorant trolls. Hey, a church has to make a living too, you know?”

From his home in Beverly Hills, Slayer bassist/vocalist Tom Araya stated:

“No hell? Really, he said there was no hell? Well that’s great, just great. That pretty much pulls the rug out from under our thing, doesn’t it? How are we supposed to make a living without a hell to scare the crap out of our fans? What the fuck are we going to sing about, jock itch and canker sores? Ingrown toenails?

“I mean, we even titled one of our albums Hell Awaits, who’s going to buy that shit now? No one. God damn it, I have alimony and child support payments and a mortgage. Dude should stop and think before he starts flapping his gums. I gotta call Danzig, he will be PISSED OFF.”

A representative from the Hell’s Angels had no comment.

Pope Francis has remained silent so far on the existence of heck, Sam Hill, 7734, or H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.

Hef and the Dead

Tony Ballz

Hugh Hefner needed to be hip. The Playboy magnate could not let the times pass him by, he had to stay abreast of what the youth were into. The survival of his magazine, his empire, and the Playboy lifestyle depended on it. Uncool was not an option.

In 1959-1960, Hef hosted Playboy’s Penthouse, a program broadcast locally in Chicago which purported to recreate a typical night at the Playboy Mansion with celebrity buddies “just dropping in” to drink martinis and crack jokes and ogle the girls.

Hef signed a deal with CBS in late 1968 to host Playboy After Dark, a coast-to-coast version of his earlier show, but recast as a sort of bridge to the hippie culture overtaking America. The guest stars were the usual tired showbiz geezers, but the musical acts were first-rate: James Brown, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, Grand Funk Railroad, Three Dog Night, Harry Nilsson, Fleetwood Mac, The Byrds, and more. It was Hef’s ticket to hipness.

Playboy writer/cartoonist/oddball Shel Silverstein was introduced to the Grateful Dead, the hippiest of the hippie bands, in 1968. Shel asked if they were interested in performing on Playboy After Dark. The Dead, who had never done a TV appearance, were intrigued; not only at the exposure, but at the chance for a great prank. They met Hef and all was groovy. A date was set for the taping: January 18, 1969.

The Dead’s live soundman and chief prankster was Bear, aka Augustus Owsley Stanley III. Bear came from a privileged background: his grandfather (Owsley Stanley The First) was a U.S. Senator and Governor of Kentucky. After falling in with Ken Kesey’s crowd, the amateur chemist found his purpose in life: to turn on the world. Between 1965-1967, he manufactured over a million hits of exceptionally pure LSD, which were distributed free. Among the recipients were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. For years afterward, “Owsley Acid” meant quality product.

When the Dead played Kesey’s Acid Tests, the LSD was located in a punch bowl, open to all. When they started performing in concert halls, they had to figure out new ways of turning everyone on. If a communal dispenser wasn’t available, Bear and the band would sneak around and dose people’s drinks on the sly. No one was sure what the scene at Playboy After Dark would be like, but Bear was bringing two loaded eyedroppers just in case.

Hef did not learn of the Dead’s backstage antics until after they were already booked. Despite all his attempts to be hip, Hef was scared of getting dosed. He had never taken LSD and wasn’t about to start now. He brought Shel Silverstein into his confidence and Shel offered to be his beverage protector.

Coca-Cola was Hef’s drink of choice. His contract stipulated two cases always on set. They were watched over by an aide who opened each bottle and handed it only to Shel, who delivered it directly to Hef and then kept his eyes peeled for any hijinx.

The Dead arrived at the CBS Studios in Los Angeles with freak flags flying. They found the atmosphere a bit stodgy and uptight. The women were attractive, but all wore cocktail dresses. Except the two Token Negroes, every man present was wearing a tux or a suit jacket/turtleneck/slacks combo. None had hair past their shoulders. Bunnies on loan from the L.A. Playboy Club circulated with hors d’oevres. The place felt like a dentists’ convention.

The band set up in front of an impressive-looking wall of ceiling-to-floor stereo equipment. Intrigued, keyboardist Tom “TC” Constanten removed one of the panels to peek behind it. There were no wires or anything attached. The entire backdrop was a false front.

At the time, the Grateful Dead were a seven-piece: Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir on guitars, Phil Lesh on bass, drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, TC on keyboards, and conga & organ player/vocalist Pigpen. With such a large group, balance issues were important, and Bear assumed he would be working closely with the studio crew.

To his dismay, Bear was told that CBS ran an all-union house. Not only was his advice unwelcome, he was not allowed to adjust one microphone or even be present in the control room while the Dead were playing. Although Bear was older than several of the techs, he looked like a weirdo and the CBS guys openly snickered at him. Bear stalked out of the booth, fuming.

This was the deciding moment. Time to change the channel, folks. Lock up your daughters, the freaks have taken control. Bear strolled over to the catering station and casually dumped the eyedroppers into the coffee urn. He then went up to Garcia and murmured in his ear:

“It’s in the coffee. Both droppers.”

“Out of sight.”

The word spread. The Dead and co. all partook, except for abstainers TC and Pigpen. No one outside their camp was clued in. Many of the extras were returning from dinner and enjoyed a cup or two. By the time the shoot began, the whole room was vibrating and Bear’s mood had lightened considerably. He and the band grinned at each other.

“Say, this is some good coffee!”

“Really gives you a lift, doesn’t it?”

“Ladies and gentlemen, KLSD is on the air!”

“Receiving signal loud and clear … and my TV’s not even plugged in!”

Jerry Garcia had agreed to a short interview before the set. He was instructed to make small talk as the camera moved through the “party” to their table. Garcia, incongruous among the tuxedoed crowd in a rainbow colored poncho with scraggly long hair and beard, was flying on acid and did as he was told.

JG: Well, so there we were. Six or seven of us, armed to the teeth with buck knives …

HH: (interrupting) Jerry, the Grateful Dead has been part of the San Francisco scene about four or five years. Is the hippie scene changing now? I understand that um …

JG: Yeah, we’re all big people now.

HH: I understand the Haight-Ashbury scene has changed a good deal.

JG: Well, Haight-Ashbury is just a place, you know? It’s just a street, it’s not really the thing, it never was the thing that was going on.

HH: It was just the thing that got the publicity.

JG: Right, right, that’s the thing that people could talk about because it’s easy to remember.

HH: Well … about a summer ago, they held a funeral for hippiedom.

JG: Right, right, and that was all of us saying, “We’re not going to tell anybody anymore what we’re doing.”

HH: Start enjoying it again, huh?

JG: Right! Right.

HH: Well, I noticed that with your own group, you’ve got kind of a stereo effect going on here with drums, two complete sets of drums and two drummers … um, obviously for a purpose …

JG: Right. Mutual annihilation.

HH: I see. In other words, the guys kind of compete with one another?

JG: Well, they more chase each other around. It’s like the serpent that eats its own tail and it goes round and round like that and if you can stand in between ’em, they make big figure eights on their sides in your head.

HH: I don’t think I’m going to stand between ’em, I think I’ll stay back a little ways … but I notice that the guys are near their instruments here and the kids have kind of settled down, I wonder if we could get you to do a number for us?

JG: Absolutely not.

(a half-second of silence, then laughter and applause.

HH: Good.

(Jerry walks to stage right and perches on an amp with his acoustic guitar)

JG: You bet, right you are. Uh, Mountains Of The uh … Moon. That’s the one, the big one up there at night.

TC is at the harpsichord, while Bob Weir sits on the lip of the stage with his 12-string, chatting up a pretty blonde. The trio perform a delicate “Mountains Of The Moon” from the Dead’s upcoming LP Aoxomoxoa. The elegant couples sway in time as the cameras slowly pan across them.

Garcia and Weir then strap on their electric guitars and the full band launches into “St. Stephen”. Hef and girlfriend Barbi Benton watch, arms around each other tight with that “we just had sex in the grotto” vibe. The Dead’s two-drummer lineup is louder than hell and the weirdness starts as the acid really kicks in.

Several of Hef’s guests, eyes wide, depart the premises, claiming illness. One of the dancing bunnies disrobes as the group plays. Hef begins to suspect something is up, but Shel (who knows exactly what is up) assures his boss that this is the effect the Dead’s music has on their audience. Hef buys it and puffs his pipe. Bear lurks around, itching to dose Hef’s drink, but Silverstein is watching it closely.

Meanwhile, there is pandemonium in the booth. The house sound engineer is useless, babbling about knobs and dials and electricity to his coworkers. He is sent home and a smirking Bear is found, apologized to, and made an honorary union man for a day. Bear is used to mixing the Dead’s live shows with state of the art equipment while on massive amounts of LSD, and the CBS board, 20 years out of date, is a cinch.

On the monitor, Camera Three has the naked girl’s breasts in perfect focus and will not let them go.

“Camera Three, can you pan to a wide shot of the group?”

“OK, Camera Three, very funny. Now will you move off of her tits, please?”

“Camera Three, hello? Anybody home? George, what the hell is going on down there?”

On the floor, the voices in George’s earphones appear to be coming from another planet in some alien language. George drank a nice big cup of coffee about an hour ago and is enjoying the best day he has ever had at work. He’s never filmed a naked woman before and wants to be 100% professional and capture every moment. This band, the Dreadful Grape or whatever, was pretty darn good too. On one level, George knows that he is operating a camera on a crane, but another part of his brain is convinced he is actually riding a long-necked dinosaur. Just wait until the kids hear about this!

George’s supervisor stands on the floor yelling up at him. George has removed his shirt and headset and refuses to come down. Dammit, he has a job to do! He keeps the camera steady on the bunny’s chest.

The Grateful Dead are only scheduled to do two songs, but they jam for an hour. No one wants to stop them. The studio is full of suburbanites tripping their faces off and dancing like maniacs. Even Hef and Barbi leave their lovers’ nook to boogie. After making sure they have some usable footage, the crew shut down the equipment and call it an early night while the Dead play on. Later, Shel Silverstein tells the group that this was the nearest the show ever came to having an actual party on the set. Hef successfully avoided any surprises in his drink.

A week after the taping, the Grateful Dead record one of their performances at the Avalon Ballroom which is used for part of their epochal Live/Dead LP. The band do not play on network television again until their 1978 appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Playboy After Dark lasted two seasons and 52 episodes before being canceled in 1970. Two best-of DVDs were released in 2006. The show remains a fascinating artifact of its era, a strange attempted crossover where you can almost see and hear the cultures clashing. Hugh Hefner never hosted another variety program.

Titties and Jesus

Tony Ballz

How many times have you seen this? A supermodel or pop star or actress is attending some Hollywood hoo-ha dressed in her best chest-baring gown. I mean, her breasts are RIGHT THERE in everyone’s faces. There’s no missing ’em. Even Stevie Wonder is all, “Damn, girl!”

And what is she wearing on a chain around her neck, dangling oh-so-enticingly inside that cleavage you could stick the Sunday paper in? Why, it’s THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, suffering and dying for your sins on his cross, which is located … right between the titties. Heaven, as it were.

Now, for those atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, recovering Catholics (like myself) and other heathens out there, this pageantry doesn’t mean jack. We’re too mesmerized by the boobs to notice her choice of jewelry. But what if you’re a Christian who staunchly believes in this religion? What kind of message is this sending?

“Hey bud, check out these fantastic titties! Buuuuut … JESUS IS WATCHING YOU! JEEEESUS IS WAAAATCHING YOOOUUUU! GUILT! SIN! AAAAGH! I’m sorry, My Savior … but … titties! Can’t … stop … looking … at … NO! EVIL! SIN! GUILT! TITTIES/JESUS, JESUS/TITTIES! I’M SO CONFUSED!”

Leave it to those goldarned Christians to torture themselves over sex, one of the most healthy and (dare I say it) normal urges owned by humans. You might as well feel guilty about being hungry, then hit the confessional right after dinner. “I’m sorry, Father … the food was just sitting there and I … I HAD to eat it! Oh help me, Lord!”

But it’s not just the followers of J.C. that are affected by this quaint superstition: we are an entire nation of prudes. European network TV has been showing nudity since the 1970s! Over here, Janet Jackson flashes her 37-year-old nipple and everyone goes apeshit.

“Oh my God, it’s a WOMAN’S BREAST! The most filthy, disgusting, vile abomination on Earth! Children, avert your eyes!”

More than prudishness, we are victims of The Big Tease, the one that doesn’t deliver. Ever wonder how a fine Amurrican Christian Republican good-ol-boy douchenozzle like Billy Ray Cyrus can allow his 14-year-old daughter to act like a slut on national television? The Big Tease. “Sex is OK honey, as long as you promise them something they will never get.”

“How dare you think such impure thoughts! That girl is a child! Evil! Sin! Guilt!”

“But … titties!”

Ever wonder why Disney productions like High School Musical feature hot actresses in their early 20s portraying teens? The Big Tease. “Hey sweetie, bet no one in your high school looked like THIS, hmm?” Girl, there aren’t teenagers ANYWHERE who look like that, you’re 23.

“For shame! She’s supposed to be in 12th grade! What kind of an ogre are you?”

“But … titties!”

Christians are into sex, just not that messy orgasm part.

Sexual frustration greases the wheels of our economy (at least it’s greasing something, ba-dum ch!). See, the Puritans didn’t want you to even THINK about sex, but Christians sure do, so they can hook you with The Big Tease and pour on the guilt and keep you coming back for more because you just can’t help yourself, you naughty sinner you. It’s as American as hair pie … er, apple pie.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with Selena Gomez.