My old friend Tommy V popped up this morning to remind me that I missed an important holiday yesterday: the 90th birthday of the great, still-not-late Abe Vigoda. Usually 90 seems pretty old, but in this case most people’s reaction is probably something like, “Wow! Abe’s only 90?” After all, he’s been making a living by looking like he’s on death’s door since the mid-70s. But the joke’s on us; Abe will probably outlive us all, roaming a post-apocalyptic wasteland with the cockroaches, Keith Richards, and Rudy the blind and deaf Shih-Tzu.
In honor of the occasion, here are a few more Vigoda factoids:
According to NNBD, “his first big break was a small, occasionally recurring role on Dark Shadows, the 1960s low-budget haunted house soap opera.” This was news to me – I couldn’t find much in the way of detail, other than the fact that he had played two different characters on three episodes – but it seems entirely appropriate, given that Abe himself is undead.
“Vigoda was born in New York City, the son of Lena (née Moses) and Samuel Vigoda, Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was a tailor and his brother, Bill Vigoda, was a comic-book artist who drew for the Archie comics franchise and others in the 1940s.” (sez The Wikipedia)
Web searches for all things Abe are complicated by the increasing success of the rock band that appropriated his name. I don’t have an official position on whether they deserve to bear the Vigoda name, but based on an admittedly superficial sampling of their music, I am not impressed.
According to IMDB, Abe has three new movies coming out soon: Small Town Hero, Mafioso II, and The Driver. Is a major comeback in the works? It seems unlikely; but if you know what’s good for you, you’ll never bet against Abe Vigoda.
According to my records, the great Mac Rebennack – better known to the world as Dr. John the Night Tripper – turns 70 today. I actually got to meet the Dr. a few years back when he and his band (including the wonderfully named Renard Poché) stayed at the hotel where I was posing as a desk clerk. He was very gracious and his people gave me free tickets to the shows; it was a real bright spot in an otherwise less than stellar period of my life.
In his honor, here’s an excerpt from his autobiography Under a Hoodoo Moon where he describes how he finally kicked heroin after many, many, many years. There’s something striking and poetic about it, if’n you ask me:
…that happened again and again during my halfhearted rehab attempts: I straightened up for a while , but sooner or later I ran into some Chang Moi rocks and it was off to the races, another four years of getting strung out like a fucking guinea pig. (more…)
Today’s birthday: The late, great Marc Bolan, who would have been 63 today if not for an unfortunate incident with an automobile back in 1977.
Bolan was a truly singular talent, and although often tagged with the meaningless appellation “glam rock,” the music he made with his band T. Rex was really hors catégorie. His special gift was the ability to deliver the most ridiculous lyrics with a straight face and somehow make it seem cool:
I got stars in my beard
And I feel real weird
(“Mambo Sun,” 1971)
Time is short today for a full appreciation; instead, here are five random Bolan factoids: (more…)
At a wine tasting recently I spotted a guy with a T-shirt that read “Some people have a way with words, other people…not have way.” This made me so happy that I had to follow him around until I could thank him, though I’m not 100% sure he was aware of the line’s genesis, which was in Steve Martin’s 1970s comedy act.
All these classic bits are hard-wired into my brain machine and will probably remain there long after I have forgotten everything about my own actual life. Imagine then my chagrin upon learning that I somehow missed Steve’s 65th birthday, which took place this Saturday. In my defense I did write a lovely tribute for his 60th, which you can read — along with other related items — in the recently created category on this site that I call Gurn Blanston (after Steve’s real name, of course, as all us children of the 70s know).
An an extra special bonus, here’s a video I found of a dark-haired young Steve doing his magic act on the Smothers Brothers show. Happy Birthday to Steve, and to the rest of you, happy Monday.
Today’s writing is dedicated to George Clinton, the Benjamin Franklin of funk, who turns 70 today. For those of you keeping score at home, that means he was born exactly 15 days after Ringo Starr in July 1940. Ringo and George (Clinton) share one essential quality, which is that it’s hard to think of them without feeling just a little bit happier. “With a Little Help from My Friends,” The Mothership Connection, “It Don’t Come Easy,” Maggot Brain…we’re glad these things exist, aren’t we? And its nice to know their creators are still walking the Earth. Love on ya, boys.
And what does this have to do with the Tour de France? Well, you’re reading about them in the same place, aren’t you? So they must have something to do with each other.
Stage 17 was the big showdown on the Col du Tourmalet, and it was a cold, rainy, foggy day. The images on the TV were dreamlike and impressionistic, with the raindrops on the camera lens giving everything a sort of Monet quality. And then, out of the fog, there are two figures, one in white and one in yellow: Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, having left everyone else behind and shooting to the top of the mountain. (more…)
A couple of rock birthdays today: Iggy Pop turns 63 (!) and Robert Smith of the Cure, 51.
The continued existence of the man born James Osterberg as a living, breathing organism on planet Earth—along with those of his contemporaries Lou Reed and Keith Richards—must be considered something of a miracle. Consider this passage from Marc Spitz’s Bowie describing Iggy’s state in 1976:
Iggy Pop resurfaced again once the White Light tour rolled back into Los Angeles. Since being dropped from MainMan, Iggy had sunk even further. He was arrested for shoplifting, sleeping in a garage, and trying to write songs with James Williamson but mostly in a drug haze.
“Iggy was in such bad odor with the rest of L.A. that most of the dealers refused to let him into their apartments,” Nick Kent writes in his classic anthology The Dark Stuff. “He’d made such a mess of his life during the two years he’d been based in L.A. that everyone had him written off as nothing more than a washed up loser….”
When he began to vomit fluid of unrecognizable origin and indescribable color, and with the police threatening to prosecute him for vagrancy, he finally committed himself to the Neuropsychiatric Institute in L.A.