Saturday, December 08, 2007

"Leapin' Lizards, Sandy, Evel Knievel's Dead!"

He's Leapt His Last Canyon
As a young jerk, just out of college, mighty in pheromones and smartass responses, so charming with the ladies, so matter-of-fact with men, I landed a smooth little job for a 22-year-old as the office manager of a county juvenile detention home, a big county, a big city, a big juvenile detention home (and yes it was called "the juvie" by the recidivist kids who bopped in and out of there with habitual regularity). As office manager, I was responsible for ordering supplies that kept the joint running but also I got the privilege of driving myself around this big city as though I were a big shot every afternoon in my own company car that I had purchased for the home myself gathering up donations of money, sporting goods, clothes, and in the best instance films from the Warner Brothers-MGM film distribution center for the juvie's theater (yeah, movie night twice a week)--see my power? I used it to the hilt, I might add, especially in impressing all the young just-out-of-college women caseworkers from the huge county welfare department that sat up a slight hill from my office in the depressed juvenile jail, which is what it was, a damn kiddie jail, I mean with prison-like cells, with prison-like bars, and bars on the windows, too, the windows made of chicken-wire-reenforced opaque glass that let the light in but you couldn't see out of them--oh, I forgot, steel-plated prison-like-cell doors on the cells, too, and at the far ends of each wing of these prison-type cells, down a long dundreary hallway was a dorm-type cell, a big community cell for the lightweight offenders like the inevitable incorrigibles, the gypsy-kid pickpockets or junior arsonists, runaways from all over the USA, easy-to-handle types, with the murderers, the nymphos, the assaulters, the abusers, the worst threats, and the mentally insane going in the secure cells.

My main source of power and the pleasures it got me came on my afternoon runs around the city...BECAUSE, and that's a BIG BECAUSE, a lot of these donaters were rich dudes's wives or rich women themselves--but women, and that's my point--women with no men around--and me a young 22-year-old 155-lb blondie-burr-haired boy-man fresh out of the US Army and lookin' good, especially to some of these left-lonely rich babes--why, one chick who always gave us sports equipment for our gym (yes, the juvie had a gym)--her family owned a big sporting goods store--always met me at her mansion's front door wearing a bikini and saying the same thing summer or winter, "I'm having a cool one out by the pool, go on out there and help yourself to some of that food Bessie put out there...have a cold one, too, if you want one, I've got that Mexican beer you like in the pool fridge there." And I'd go out to her pool and sip on a Superior while anticipating her return and the fun that might follow--her enclosed pool, baby, with a roll back roof for summer--I mean this family were some rich sombitches.

My main conquest, however, on those afternoon man-about-town adventures of mine was the receptionist at the Warner Bros.-MGM film distribution center--a gal from the hills of Tennessee, wow, a big-boned blonde beauty with bunny teeth and a winkly nose and dopey-droopy brown eyes--plus, she was loose, and I loved loose women in those days--remember I was 80% testosterone back then with pheromones spewing from me twenty-four/seven, so combine that with my natural charm and my show-off GOOD county job and the women chased me like the hillbilly babes in old child-molester Al Capp's Lil Abner comic strip chased all the hillbilly studs on what Al's hillbillies called Sadie Hawkins Day--so this little Volunteer State honeychile was totally sweet to me--and several other dudes I later found out one drunken brave night when I was beating my chest like a randy Silverback Mountain Gorilla big boy and braggin' about how, "Watch this, you lonely bastards, I can stop right here at this place and run in that little house back there and come draggin' a babe out here caveman-style that will knock your sox off, a babe who knows which daddy of hers has the sweetest sugar for her little Tennessee sugar bowl"...and in that state of pomposity, I banged on her door for too long'a time to suit me and I started drunkenly shouting her name...and finally she came to the door, wearing panties and a shortie top, her hair mussed up, her eyes baggy and lollygaggy with a sleepy satisfied stare, and she stepped outside and told me she was sorry but she was entertaining a gentleman and I should leave...she'd call me later and explain--and I wasn't drunk enough not to know that this Tennessee doll (now a ragdoll in my mind) was blowing me off, and I mean the bad kind, too, not the good kind. Whoooo, boy, she shot my ass right straight out of the saddle that night though before that night, I got more than my share of her, and one night one of the shares I got was tickets to go with her to Evel Knievel's big daredevil show out at the State Fair Grounds that weekend--plus Evel was being sponsored in part by Warner Bros., so shit, we were honored guests and invited to a little press party for the main man after his show--that is if he were still alive...or maybe not on his way to the hospital.

The party turned out to be white trash extravagant, with a gaggle of combo-show-biz-bullshit types amidst stage hands, geek fan club types, promotion types, etc., everybody jolly, drinking, smoking, trick-bagging, slickly bragging. The night had been a success for Evel, too. He'd jumped 14 school buses--I remember they were big yellow schoolbuses--I remember joking that he should fill the buses with little school kids, make it more evilly exciting--but, hey, the Tennessean didn't see that as funny. Then came the preamble before Evel's leap and during the preambling, Evel did shennanigans with his bike in front of the grandstand, riding it fast up and down on the track the dirt track, doing poppa-wheelies, once standing up on the seat and as the bike raced along the wind blew free his American-flag-like cape he wore as he warmed up, all the while the show announcer was babbling ostentatious excitements concerning what the Evel Man was fixin' to try--"No one, and I say that loudly and proudly, but no one, ladies and gentlemen here in this great metropolis, no one, and I mean how privileged you folks are, because no one, and I shout it to the heavens, NO ONE, ladies and gentlemen, has ever defied the very presence of death like you good folks are fixin' to see right here tonight before your very eyes, ladies and gentlemen, defying death, a lone man defying death, a lone man on a custom-made motorcycle, looking DEATH straight in the eye and then flying toward it, aiming at it right between its blood-red eyes, ladies and gentlemen, let me proudly introduce to you, the most death-defying human being still living on the face of this EARTH, ladies and gentlemen, the one the only EVEL Kaaaaaaaaaa-NEEEEVEL!" And the the place was hushed as Evel flipped off his cape, put his crash helmet on, and then proceeded to the approach to the large wooden ramp at the far end of the oval race track. The ramp looked awesome in the cold light on that sultry night. Lined up in front of that ramp were these 14, I'm pretty sure, big yellow schoolbuses.

Evel rolled his bike up onto the ramp's approach, revved his engine loudly, then he let out the clutch and roared up the ramp but stopped short of going off the end and sat there a minute, then he raised his fist in the air, wheeled the bike around and back down off the ramp and then way back on up the track to a distance part of the high fence that surrounded the track. A drumroll came from out of nowhere over the sound system--Evel stood up on the bike, raised his fist in the air again, and then here he came whizzing down that dirt track toward that ramp approach, hitting that with a bang, and before you knew it, Evel was flying on his bike out over those schoolbuses, at what looked like from the stands only a matter of a few feet above and over the buses, flying, whewwww, and then, as the crowd held their breath and then sighed as Evel looked like he might not make it--but then he did make it barely clearing the last bus--and the bike slammed down front wheel first onto the track and flipped wildly with a sputtering spitting out from under Evel leaving him spinning like a beer can tossed out of a speeding car spins when it lands in the middle of the highway and rolling down the track to finally end up splatted face-first down into the dirt of the track. The crowd was totally hushed as Evel lay there on the track not moving, and dozens of dudes running out to him. Suddenly, as if on cue, Evel miraculously just jumped up, stood straight up and began pumping that fist back up in the air. "Evel, are you alright?" the announcer yelled over the PA and Evel waved back up to him that yeah he was alright. "Ladies and gentlemen, you didn't believe but now you do, let's hear it for the one the only the world's greatest daredevil, Eeeeeeevull KaaaaaaaaNeeeVull"...and the place went hog-mad-wild!

Me and the Tennessee belle bopped out ways into the press party and soon old Evel himself was there not five feet in front of us standing still in his jump suit and holding his helmet in his hand. He was dirty as hell, oil, mud, dirt, even some blood, yes, I saw a big splotch of blood on Evel's shoulder--and it turned out later he had suffered a fractured shoulder and a broken arm in that fall, though you couldn't tell it while Evel was at that press conference. That was it. Evel made a polite little speech, said he was probably going to have to visit the local hospital for a short while, then he laughed and said, "Naw, I feel great really and I'm readying up for next time when I'm jumpin' 24 of those damn buses! And who knows," he said as he walked away, "I may jump the Grand Canyon one day!" And the room went berserk. And that was it; my brief encounter with the phenomenon that was Evel Knievel.

And I just heard this morning that Evel had died a day or so ago.
Evel in 1st foto, before: jumping a bunch of Mack trucks...and Evel in 2nd foto, afterwards--"Come on, Evel, jump that Little Rascal!"

And Then I See Where Karlheinz Stockhausen Died (Do I Hear Applause?)
From (ugh)

Stockhausen's Divided Legacy, From Beatles to Squandered Genius

By Mark Beech

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Karlheinz Stockhausen, who died Dec. 5 aged 79, divided opinion like few musicians had done before him.

His admirers are mourning a man they call the greatest German composer since Wagner. The heavy words ``genius,'' influential'' and ``pioneering'' are being thrown into obituaries. So is the over-used term ``controversial,'' which for once is justified to describe his mixed legacy.

Stockhausen influenced everyone from the Beatles and Bjork to Pierre Boulez. He was more avant-garde than Arnold Schoenberg, trying to push further the boundaries of music. Sometimes he led it in startling new directions, such as his 1952-53 masterwork ``Kontra-Punkte.'' In other experiments, he took it up a blind alley: ``Am Himmel Wandre Ich'' (In the Sky I Am Walking), mangled North American Indian prayers.

His groundbreaking works dropped traditional tunes. ``Gruppen'' (Groups) for three orchestras had slowly changing patterns. ``Stimmung'' (Tuning) dwelled for 75 minutes on a single chord of B flat ninth. Stockhausen's ``controlled chance'' paved the way for ``systems music'' and ambient works like Brian Eno's ``Thursday Afternoon.''

Electronic Stew

Stockhausen mixed music with real sounds. His 1956 ``Gesang der Juenglinge'' (Song of the Youths) combined electronics with voices. ``Kontakte'' (Contacts) of 1960 was one of the first compositions to mix live instruments with prerecorded material. ``Telemusik'' (1966) used Japanese monks and ``Hymnen'' (1966-7) blended national anthems into the electronic stew. This technique has since surfaced everywhere from Steve Reich's ``City Life'' to John Tavener's ``In Alium.''

He was an electronic pioneer, using synthesizers long before the Beatles adopted the Mellotron for the 1967 single ``Strawberry Fields Forever.'' Three months later, the group put Stockhausen on the cover of ``Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.''

By the 1970s, Stockhausen's beats found echoes in long compositions by German bands Can, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. Miles Davis and Frank Zappa also hailed his work, though some of those who claimed indebtedness might have been name-dropping just to appear cool and cultured: Stockhausen has long been more spoken about than actually listened to. He sowed the seeds for computerized and sampled compositions up to the 21st century.

Stockhausen took Oliver Messiaen's and Anton Webern's musical template and tore it up. His classical influence on others was less obvious, though his pupil Wolfgang Rihm and members of the ``Darmstadt School'' such as Boulez have followed a similar path.

Obsolete Music?

Stockhausen's music now sounds dated. Some of his pieces, using now-obsolete synthesizers, can never be performed as they were written.

His reputation was not helped by his reported comments that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were ``works of art,'' even after his hasty claim that these remarks had been misunderstood.

Stockhausen seemed happy to squander his credibility. He gave his critics plenty of ammunition by saying he was descended from the stars in a megalomaniac manifesto ``Toward a Cosmic Music.''

This came along with plans for a new dynasty to rival Bayreuth -- he set up an extended family of female admirers and was married twice with six children. He wrote an opera for every day of the week, as if to out-Wagner Wagner himself.

The result was ``Licht'' (Light), where Stockhausen smothered clever ideas in 29 hours of self-indulgence. As if to make the whole project as crackpot as possible, he included a string quartet hovering in four helicopters over the performance. Even some of his most ardent fans could not follow him into ``Licht.''

Stockhausen's later works do a disservice to the sage and savior who became seen as a shamster and a simpleton. He was too prolific and ambitious for his own good. He dashed off 319 pieces in his life, his Web site says.

We may do best to remember him, first by recalling the conductor Thomas Beecham, who was asked whether he had heard any Stockhausen. No, said the conductor, but I believe I have trodden in some.

Karlheinz when he was not to be trodden in.

for The Daily Growler

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