Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Anybody crying about 100 people laid off at ESPN?

On the Internet, nobody hears you cry. Sees you cry. Or cares if you cry.

The trolls can leave their wisecracks:

"Awww, boo hoo!" "Put on your big girl panties and get REAL jobs!" "I get my news instantly with Google! Mmmmmm! FREEE!"

Don't expect anything better from the NPR crowd. The New York Times writers. Those types.

"Well, the trope is that the zeitgeist has led to a new paradigm." Ah. There you are.

BEBE, a store with 100's of outlets, went under last week. Coca-Cola laid off 1,000 employees who thought nobody would ever stop guzzling sugary drinks. Book and magazine publishers shiver at night.

You never hear of problems at Amazon, though. Google is doing just fine, thanks. And Ebay, where book piracy is an every day glimpse at auction headers with "ebook" or "PDF" or "KINDLE" in the title, continues to laugh all the way to the bank. Their phone support may be in Guam or Pakistan, but that's not because they laid off Americans. They never hired them.

What can you say?

Since I'm not paid by the word, or paid at all here, I won't say much.

All I can say is that the Internet has changed the way we ignore or cheat each other. Until there's some bizarre bandwidth meltdown, or companies stop thinking that anyone looks at banner ads, this nightmare will not end.

ESPN? Are you KIDDING? Who the hell watches ESPN for NEWS anymore?

The Internet has every Decider, Insider, Gawker, Newser and freelancer stealing the news for their own site, and Google and Yahoo happily offering a news page with every possible headline on it, why stick with ESPN, or any other TV news site?

As for columnists, who needs 'em? Whatever your favorite subject, from boxing to baseball, there are FORUMS, where EVERYONE has an opinion, and you can add your own.

ESPN is mainly axing news reporters, and only keeping the loudest balloons. If you are opinionated and have a big "love 'em or hate 'em" following, you might be safe. ESPN needs to cut costs, but Stephen A. Smith is untouched, and he keeps his three million dollars a year.

Surprising? No, there are radio stations where news reporters and anchors are let go, and maybe cheap interns take their place, while a Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh continues to thrive. "News" is no longer valued, and actual reporters are no longer needed. All you need are people capturing things on their cell phones and tossing them on the Internet. The epidemic of fake news, or bloggers being quoted, or reaction on Twitter being quoted in news pieces, show how devalued and cheapened radio and TV news and newspapers are.

Sports highlights? Why bother with ESPN for that? First off, they might not HAVE the highlight you want. Most any major PPV sporting event is bootlegged onto YouTube the moment it's been aired, and quite often ESPN, being responsible journalists, won't show you the highlights because they they know they can't claim "fair use" or simply say, as they do on eBay, "I either own the rights, or have licensed them, or I am allowed to do this under Constant Commons rules and the Putin theory that Copyright is Copy Wrong."

Let's remember, ESPN has scuttled ON-AIR talent, and NOT their Internet website staff. No, it's easier to keep cheap writers on the Net, and ones who work just to have a byline so they can see sports events free. It's no great trick to replace an Internet writer at any time, if that writer has the nerve to demand health insurance or a pension plan, or a raise.

People were predicting the bloodbath at E.S.P.N. - Extra Sensory Perception? NO.

It was inevitable.

And how did most people discover whether their favorite talking heads and opinionated jocks were fired? TWITTER!

We have the Internet, little people at the TV headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. WE DON'T NEED YOU ANYMORE.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Brother Theodore in the "David Letterman Last Giant of Late Night" Book

I think the photo says it all, doesn't it?

My late friend, Theodore Gottlieb, used to say on stage, "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is MY fault, I should have known better..." and that applies to my photo of him.

It's all over the Internet with NO credit to ME, because I didn't know better. I didn't realize the Internet respects no copyright, "shares" everything, and that I was too naive back then to "watermark" the photo with some big ugly letters saying "DO NOT COPY" or "photo by RONALD L. SMITH."


When I heard that some New York Times guy used his connections to get a deal, take time off with the advance money, and wander around interviewing key players (he got to Rich Hall, but not David's first wife), I wondered whether Theodore would figure in the book.

After all, Theodore was one of the eccentrics who David needed when he was just the hipster's "Joe Franklin Show," and couldn't rely on famous names. Theodore was playing the small 13th Street Theater Saturday nights, and unlike oddball Larry "Bud" Melman, was not coddled by having people write for him. When Theodore did the show, he had to prepare his own material, keyed to questions he supplied to Dave.

Sadly, the New York Times guy, who uses words like TROPE (I'm waiting for zeitgeist, underpinning, informed (as in, "his comedy was informed by influences such as...") and the ever-popular paradigm) reduced my legendary friend to ONE paragraph.

In true New York Times and NPR style, the paragraph is freeze-dried by college words (locution, philosophic, cultural) and presented with an impotent and anemic (there you go, more college words) lack of true insight or appreciation.

"Late Night pursued guests who were more on the cultural margins. Brother Theodore, a singular German monologist who delivered enraged rants off_Broadway, regularly brought the energy of performance art to Late Night. Dressed in black and wearing stern expression, he came off as a parody of an intellectual saying very important things. His laments about the culture were epic. The locution of his philosophic tirades echoed that of old Hitler speeches, making him seem the model of the dangers of believing things too deeply."

Uh, yeah. Sure.

This description reminds me of a Bob and Ray bit, in which a politician's speech is analyzed:

"His jeremiad, this threnody, call it what you will, can only be described as an atrabilious amphigory."

It's a little painful to find the Times' expert on comedy mentioning Hitler in reference to a Jewish comedian well known to have survived Dachau while losing the rest of his family to the Holocaust.

Theodore was not a political or topical comedy. His self-defeating comedy ("I am the bride at every funeral...") and his most famous gloomy one liners ("The best thing is not to be born, but who is as lucky as that?") had nothing to do with old Hitler speeches.

But despite the author's insistence that he became a big Dave fan while in college, the publicity surrounding this book is basically, "Hey, Letterman's not a nice guy." The advance publicity hinges on a few fired staffers getting even by offering anecdotes about their difficult boss. I've only gotten up to page 84 (the Theodore page), but who knows, in a while maybe there will be a juicy ex-staffer description of how Dave's tirades echoed that of old Himmler speeches, or Rommel, or Mengele, or given that he's an American, maybe Manson.

(Update: still reading the book, I hit page 119 and the author used ZEITGEIST. I waited for it; I got it. Then on page 137, up came "context informs the meaning of comedy." Verbosity and banality ARE predictable)

(Second update: up to page 161, where the author once again uses TROPE, this time referring to "visual tropes." The book is coming off more and more like a college lecture from somebody determined to make every minor point possible, using every major cliche of vocabulary.)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The "favorite" record store of John Lennon and David Bowie? RECORD STORE DAY?

Here we go again.


It's the one day in the year anybody cares about "Mom and Pop" stores.

And what have the surviving ones become? Effete boutiques. They aren't run by "Mom and Pop," but usually some obese, smelly over-charging goon.

The way these stores survive now is by either insisting they've got "collectors item" rare pressings (ooh, "Rubber Soul" on Venezuelan vinyl!) or they appeal to Millennial twits and Beats-loving bozos. In those cases it's, "Hey, don't bother getting Roger the Nazi's "The Wall" on CD, get it on 180 gram vinyl and impress your hipster-hat-wearing pals. Or..."Yo, brutha, scratch DIS thang! Da new copy of "Haters Gotta Hate" on 12 inch, wid two remixes on da flip side, yo. Put DIS on and plug in yo Dr. Dre's and do watcha gotta do wit yo synthetic drug of choice!"

Here's a ridiculous, pandering NY Post headline that pretends that Bowie and Lennon were denizens of a notorious tourist trap record store.

HUH? You're not saying "House of Oldies" was THE record store Bowie and Lennon LOVED, are you?

Is the DNA from their kisses still on the window somewhere? Even if the owner had somebody take some photos, that doesn't mean it was THE record store, or that anyone LOVED the place.

At best, it was convenient to any star living in the trendy Village at the time. If John was hanging around with the late David Peel, sure, he could stop in there and know that he'd very likely be able to get any 45 rpm he wanted. FOR A PRICE.

But John, living at The Dakota, could easily have gone to record stores that, at the time, were all over the West Side. A quick cab ride and he could get to Colony and Broadway, which was THE tourist trap record store for out of print vinyl, quite a rival to House of Oldies.

Back then, there were huge, authoritative record stores for anything new, including Sam Goody and King Karol. The East Village was loaded with used book and record stores. Dayton's on 12th was a mecca for budget-minded vinyl lovers like me. IF I'M BEING HONEST, I never bought anything at House of Oldies. Nice guy running it, but the prices were (and are) outrageous.

If I desperately needed that 45 rpm of "Homburg/Wee Small Hours of Sixpence" that wasn't on a Procol Harum album at the time, there were record stores with mammoth cubby holes on the wall, and in less than a minute, the single was on the counter for me. There were record stores in the subways, even! I can't even remember the names of all of them.

When I was editing ROCKET magazine and when I was the music editor of OUI, record stores were still in good health. I could make a weekly jaunt down from Dayton's through either the East or West Village, or both, and come back lugging a LOT of vinyl. Sometimes Dayton's had bargain bins full of 2 for a dollar or even 3 for a dollar goodies. Max Becker's "Hall Place Book and Records" was a favorite destination. I was such a regular customer, he'd bring stuff out from the back for me, things he figured I'd be interested in. "You go for this?" he'd say, putting a stack on a table that might include Phil Ochs or Mort Sahl.

Now? Now there's a feeble "Record Store Day," and who really supports them? It sure isn't the RIAA, who allow pirate bloggers to celebrate 14 years of brazenly giving away a half-dozen albums a day right out in the open. It's not the record labels, who never pressured politicians to update idiotic DMCA rules that allow anyone to upload anything, and place insane hoops in the way of rights owners doing takedowns.

A record store owner can't contact Google (owner of Blogspot) and say, "Hey, I sell David Bowie and John Lennon, and I have a good faith belief Hansy Wormhole doesn't have the right to give them away on his blog." Nope, a record store owner can go out of business (as Colony did a few years ago) or, if he has a good landlord or an obscure location in Brooklyn, thrive on a very narrow clientele of maniacs who don't trust eBay dealers to send them vinyl that actually is VG+ or "Mint."

Yes, in most major cities, there are still a few good record stores, but not many. When I was writing the "Goldmine Comedy Record Price Guide," I sampled what was available in key cities around the country, from Boston to Chicago to Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Odds were good, at the time, for getting used vinyl for $2 and not $20. Only truly nasty stores would slap a $20 tag on a Bill Dana or Pearl Willams record, and only truly naive owners would think they could get it. Colony fit the latter two categories, by the way, charging idiot tourists $20 or even $30 for "The First Family," which was in every thrift shop for a buck. A million copies were printed, and after JFK died, a million were tossed away by people who didn't find that record funny anymore.

The article mentions, in quite a misleading manner, that vinyl sales are UP. Yeah? For WHAT? For hipster-idiot 180 gram vinyl on "Abbey Road?" For disco junk? You can be sure that the dwindling number of people out there buying the new Ray Davies or Procol Harum that "dropped" the other day, will get it either by iTunes or Amazon download, or CD via Deep Discount or eBay. More likely, they'll get a bootleg off a torrent or blog or hidden "forum," OR, not buy it at all and be content to stream it on Spotify. Or maybe Google's bootleg-friendly YouTube will have people posting every song.

Yes, I've been to Williamsburg, and I've NOT seen the future. I've seen one or two old fashioned record stores turn up in converted garages, and offer for $4 or $5 the same tired out of print vinyl that eBay sellers can hardly unload for $2 and the $4 media mail postage. Anyone out there really collecting the Good Rats or Genesis anymore? Catching up on the back catalog of Billy Joel or Barbra Streisand on vinyl?? More often, people leave "nice comments" to uploaders: "Thanks, glad to find this. I no longer have a turntable so even if I bought it on eBay I couldn't play it!" Besides, vinyl buckles your shelves.

Happy Record Store day to whoever can point to David Peel albums, say, "These are rare, $40..." and GETS $40. Happy Record Store day to a dealer who can unload Alice Cooper's "Schools Out," with the paper panties in like-new condition, for $50. And Happy Record Store day to the thousands of people who once owned stores, once brought their boxes of vinyl to memorabilia conventions, and are now working 9 to 5 at Amazon stuffing Dr. Dre headphones and cans of Hormel Chili into shipping boxes, and remembering which is which.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fetishists Sniffing ELI MANNING's laundry? And not being HAPPY?

One of the most laughable "scandals" of the day, is that "game used" and "game worn" items from Eli Manning weren't "authentic." This is a big deal, in a memorabilia world where half the autographs are forged or secretarial?

Somehow, in the 21st Century, we have become more superstitious and fetishistic than jungle savages and desert dimwits. Every day people spend a fortune on amulets, potions and "natural" cures. Despite all the logic of medical science, millions not only believe that there's a God in a cloud looking down on them (out of BILLIONS of people) but that this God needs them to KILL for him. Or her.

And so we have poor Eli Manning, a millionaire many times over, being accused of, what, cynically handing memorabilia dealers "unworn" jockstraps and socks? A helmet that doesn't have traces of his DNA or his brand of hair tonic in it?

Nice of the NY Post to OK the term "PISSED" in covering this tempissed in a teapot.

Desperately grabbing for a souvenir should be something only ridiculous teenagers do. We've all heard about bobby soxers frantic to grab a strand of Sinatra's hair, or Elvis's hair, or a Beatle's hair. Beatlemania saw cynical dealers cutting up squares of fabric from The Fab Four's pillow cases and selling them.

It's only gotten worse. Some of my celebrity friends have remarked on getting phone calls from dealers anxious for a "worn" item that could be cut into squares and put on trading cards. "Worn" as in, what, some item that no longer fits, that's been dry cleaned and hanging in a closet? What's the big deal? Why do people pay for this junk?

And yet, on EBAY, you get a good idea of what celebrity "worn" items can fetch, with or without a "Certificate of Authenticity." Like:

There are EBAY sellers who routinely post celebrity bras, and who is going to call them on it? The indignant celebrity? Not likely. The attitude is "let the buyer beware, ha ha ha."

The sports world is loaded with inane homoerotic fetishists who want to cradle the laundry of jocks. Again, recent sales:

Companies develop good businesses in putting a "swatch" on a card. Somebody says "Oh yes, Ali had this shirt in his closet..." or "I owned a robe Ali wore into the ring, go ahead, cut it up and sell it by the square inch..."

Fact is, you don't even have to be FAMOUS to sell your laundry on EBAY. EBAY, the site of hypocrisy, insists a woman can't sell her used undies on the site. But her used socks? Used pantyhose? Oh, that's OK. EBAY, if you ask one of the drones who answers the phone, will tell you that it's a "health hazard" to sell used undies. But not used socks? Let's see a few random sales:

It can be argued that SMELLY items have some value to certain people with SMELLY tastes, but what about these square patches of "used" clothing stuck behind a laminated card? What about a baseball bat some player swung a few times till it got a crack in it? What, if you get down to it, is so meaningful about owning an autograph page with a signature of some celebrity on it? YOU didn't meet the person, and the celebrity may not even have TOUCHED the page but just put a pen on it. What is the primitive fascination with "collectibles?" Why collect autopen signatures by Ronald Reagan? There used to be a guy on eBay who covered up his ineptitude at forging by selling signed golf balls. Oh, the autograph isn't that accurate because of all the little holes in the balls. His ads always said "Forensics!" Like, somehow, if you hired somebody to conduct DNA tests, you'd find a trace of the celebrity...IF you also had the celebrity's DNA to compare it with.

A lot of stars routinely used secretaries to sign stuff. The author of the new bio of David Letterman said he attended a taping when he was a 20-something, and asked a staffer if he could get Dave's signature. The staffer said, "Sure, if you get a can of Spam. He'll sign a can of Spam." The guy raced around to local stores, hoping not to miss the taping. Finally he found a bodega that had a can. He brought it to the staffer. After the show, he got the can back, signed. And years later, he related the story to Dave, and Dave apologized: "I never signed that."

I can tell you similar stories. One celebrity friend I know once casually mentioned that she'd hand stacks of fan mail to her mother, and her mother would sign the photos. The fans almost never know the difference, and suspend all disbelief. Until they see a story like this one on Eli Manning. Then, momentarily, they're shaken. But not stirred. They'll easily believe that somebody on eBay, somebody at Comic Con, somebody at a shop specializing in memorabilia, absolutely has THE REAL DEAL.

The sad truth is that even experts can't tell half the time. Or, they don't look too closely. Guys like Manning are not only laughing all the way to the bank, they're controlling supply and demand for their own egos. You can imagine the celebrity pride in seeing how high your autographed photo is selling for, or a "game worn" ball or jersey. Some stars almost never sign anything for free, or control how many "worn" items are out there, to keep them in the "sought after" Top 10.

In the memorabilia world, "WORN" never gets old.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

My problem with "NO PROBLEM"

"Thanks for holding the door for me."


Well, no, it shouldn't be a PROBLEM to hold onto a door. It's not rocket science, either.

"Wow, there was a sale on bananas, five for a dollar...and you bought five extra for me? Thanks, here's the dollar."


I know there's NO PROBLEM. What if I said, "Get me five apples for a dollar? THEN we'd have a problem.

Here's a typical idiotic Facebook post.

Among the ten or twenty thousand Laurel & Hardy fan groups on Facebook...

Somebody in the group takes a moment to do the bare a YOUTUBE video that anybody could find if they really cared.

Out of courtesy, the moderator thanks the poster. And what does the poster do?


That's the kewl way of saying..."No Problem."

Whatever happened to shutting the hell up?

Whatever happened to answering "Thank you" with "Your welcome?"

Why say "NO PROBLEM" about something that IS NO PROBLEM?

Come to think of it, why say "No Problem" when it IS?

All you're doing is acting smug, as if what's a problem for someone else is NO PROBLEM for a genius such as yourself?

Look, if you want to use idioms and cliches, at least spread 'em around, ok?

"Thanks for taking out the garbage."

"A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse!"

"An Altoid? Don't mind if I do, thanks."

"Bob's your uncle!"

And, sad but true, "NO PROBLEM" is usually said by somebody who really isn't doing anything helpful, remarkable or even useful, and is not putting himself out one bit.

"Can you roll off some toilet paper for me, and slip it under the door? There's none in this stall."

"You've got a problem."

Fernand Tardy

Fernand Tardy has died, at the age of 97.

He was born in Versailles, and served in the French Senate from 1980 to 1998. He also wrote a well known book:

It hasn't been translated, but if you speak French, you'll probably enjoy this tome from the late Mr. Tardy.

I know it's a dumb joke, but that's really all I have to say, re Tardy.