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Thursday, July 27, 2006



As I stood in a powder room applying eyeliner, after having already applied shiny black nail polish to seven of my 10 fingers, I wondered what I ALWAYS wonder whenever I do this.

Am I a frustrated drag queen?

I DO have an excuse.

That night, I was to sing with The Burners, "South Jersey's hottest rock band" (according to us). These girlie accoutrements are part of my "rock star" getup.

My rationale is this: We're asking people to pay a $5 cover to see us, and dammit, I'm going to do everything in my power to make them feel like they're getting their fin's worth. And if that means dressing up like my Aunt Peggy, well, pass the Aqua Net.

Of course, volumes have been written about this phenomenon. It's a guy thing. It's a tribal thing, It's war paint.

My brother-in-law Tony is about the manliest man I know. He's a coach, a community leader, a family man, a machinist, a union guy, the salt-of-the-earth, with a heart of gold and season tickets for the New England Patriots. But he's also a face painter. (If you never watched television during the '90s, ask the nearest "Seinfeld" fan for a definition.)

Don't get me started on the Mummers.

So I'm hardly alone. Not even that night in Lindenwold. The Maestro's eyeliner was two shades darker than mine, bless him. (I could only find "charcoal.")

But being a guy -- and a brand new widower at that -- I don't have the follow-through essentials. The morning after the gig, I tried to remove my nail polish using gasoline and sand paper, with hideous results. "Haven't you ever heard of nail polish remover?" a young lady I know taunted me. But I'm not about to start loading up my medicine cabinet with more girlie stuff. Or the next thing you know, I'll start looking like a New York Doll -- albeit, a fat, greying, 48-year-old New York Doll.

Perhaps I should end this column before I REALLY start sounding pathetic.


Monday, July 24, 2006



Brinie, Nephew and I arrived at Moby Dick Seafood Saloon in Lindenwold a little after noon to set up for The Burners' show that night, later joined by the Maestro. After hanging the lights and The Burners' banner, the stage began looking like a stage, and excitement started creeping in.

Drummer Johnny materialized with his daughter, who just finished her sophomore year in high school (making her about the same age as her father and I when we formed our first band). She was funny, with that teen 'tude that can make mincemeat out of middle-aged fogies. "I'm your Uncle Mark," I said to her.

We Burners TRIED to keep our language on the gentlemanly side in her presence. "Has anyone seen that silly extension cord?" my brother asked at one point, as opposed to: "Has anyone seen that (expletive) extension cord?"

Once Brinie began to slip up regularly, I tried to reel him in by saying, "Oh, so it's the Wild West now? All bets are off?" But, hey, this was The Burners' set-up, and before long, the expletives flowed like icy beer.

Three hours later, we were BUMMING.

The sound company was two and a half hours late, and didn't initially answer their cell phone. What if they didn't show up? Would we have to use the P.A. system that Johnny's dad spray-painted for us back in 1976? And the air-conditioning in the ballroom was uncooperative, to the point that a repairman was summoned. (We were expecting 150 more bodies in the ballroom by that stifling evening.)

At 4:30, the sound company finally began lugging their equipment in. By 6, they'd set up and tested most of the instruments. We were ready for a proper sound check. Everyone took their place on the stage. We were just about to play a song, when ...

Suddenly, darkness fell.

The power went out! Oh my God, we killed the power with our light show, our sound equipment and the air-conditioning!

Well, no, we didn't. We learned that much of Lindenwold was out due to a blown transformer. This was music to our ears. There was no telling how long it would take to fix, but things would certainly be OK in time for The Burners' 9:45 p.m. kickoff. There was no sense sitting around. We decided to go home, shower and throw on our stage clothes. Our first song would be our sound check. It wouldn't be the first time.


Sunday, July 23, 2006


Some thoughts on writer/director Kevin Smiths "Clerks II":

When a trusted fellow Smith fan warned, "Be prepared to be disappointed," I was bummed. When I read that Joel Siegel marched out of a screening, declaring, "That's it! I'm leaving," my hopes soared anew.

While watching "Clerks II," I laughed out loud -- and hard -- many times. For me, Dante (Brian O'Halloran), Randal (Jeff Anderson), Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) haven't gotten old. Yet.

Laugh-out-loud scenes: Randal needling a "Lord of the Rings" geek (Kevin Weisman) to the point of vomiting; Elias (Trevor Ferhman) explaining that he's never had sex with his girlfriend because she has a troll in her private parts; Jay and Silent Bob talking about rehab and the Bible; the bachelor party.

The secret weapon of "Clerks II" is Ferhman as Elias, the "Transformers" and "Lord of the Rings"-obsessed virgin. The role is hilarious as written, but Ferhman takes it in surprising directions with his twitchy naivete. I'm already madly in love with Rosario Dawson, so she had me at hola.

Given the bestiality sequence, I'm surprised "Clerks II" got an R rating. Even though the camera cuts away during the actual acts, the principles are in full view and the witnesses give a blow-by-blow description of the action.

Two complaints.

One is: The movie didn't seem "big" enough -- which is a weird complaint coming from someone who DESPISES pumped-up Hollywood movies. Only a surprise dance sequence (to the tune of the Jackson 5's "ABC"), an amusement ride and the bachelor party provide a smidgen of heft. I get it that this isn't a Tom Cruise movie, but STILL. The bachelor party could have used 50 more patrons, easily. As Sam Arkoff once said to Roger Corman: "Roger, extras are cheap!"

The other is: That jailhouse scene. Smith does funny a LOT better than he does serious. It was brutal watching Randal actually work up tears. When he asks Jay and Silent Bob to cover their ears so they won't hear him tell Dante he loves him, that was the audience's cue to do the same.

I vote yes for "Clerks II," but my favorite Smith film is still "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back." There's nothing wrong with flat-out comedies -- unless, of course, they fail to make you laugh. I would welcome a "Bluntman and Chronic" movie with tons of cameos, in-jokes and pointed commentary on the overblown superhero genre. No one could do this better than Smith. Hell, I'd pay to see "Jay and Silent Bob Meet Frankenstein." I like to laugh.


Friday, July 07, 2006


This will be the last Web column I post for a while. I'm taking a two-week vacation. I promise to post shortly after my return on July 23.

I have some plans, but of course, a lot of my energy will be going toward The Burners' gig July 15 at Moby Dick Seafood Saloon in Lindenwold. (Remember? Icy beer? Spicy crabs?)

We ... are ... psyched.

We hired a new sound company (among their clients are KC and the Sunshine Band and Rick Derringer). These guys usually don't do nightclubs, so they'll be slumming for us. I'll be getting TWO vocal monitors, so I'll actually be able to hear myself (unlike the last time I sang with The Burners). I'm also getting a wireless microphone, so I'll be able to do a little traveling.

More than anything, we are sounding great and feeling strong. This five-piece unit has really clicked, as musicians and as friends.

Another milestone I'll hit during my time away from the office will be the 10-month anniversary of losing Kathy. Time has been all out of whack, of course. I can't say whether it's moved slowly or quickly. I only know that I cry every day.

I have yet to swim in the ocean this summer, which is a record for me. I'm planning to go back to "our" beach and perhaps visit some of our old beach friends. I might bring some pictures of Kathy along. Kathy and I went to this one beach for 12 years, so we watched families grow up. They'll be there in their beach chairs. Some of them probably haven't heard about Kathy. It'll be sad as hell, but I need to do it, because it's the beach I know, and I don't have the chops to seek out another one. Not THIS summer, anyway. I'll tell you -- it's confusing, walking around with this all the time. It's also exhausting. And it ain't goin' away.

Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes in Spicy Crabs 'ville.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I've been watching a lot of film noir lately, courtesy of a colleague. I've seen "Fallen Angel," "The Dark Corner," "Kiss of Death" and "Where the Sidewalk Ends."

"Fallen Angel" (1945) suffered from some implausible plot points, but had four huge plusses: Dana Andrews (can this guy possibly smoke MORE cigarettes or pour himself MORE drinks?), John Carradine (in a role that winks at his many '40s horror films), Linda Darnell (a big-eyed, big-boned beauty who every man falls in love with -- on both sides of the screen), and the fluid camerawork that I'm learning is a hallmark of director Otto Preminger.

"The Dark Corner" (1946), starring Lucille Ball and Mark Stevens, had its moments. The best thing about it was William Bendix as "Mr. White Suit," a burly thug-for-hire. I will hereafter quote a line of his from this film. While Clifton Webb is coaching Bendix during a phone call, Webb says, "Tell him you need $200 to get out of town." Bendix then says into the phone, "I need two yards, powder money." But I sure didn't buy it when (Spoiler Alert #1) Webb killed Bendix by shoving him out of a skyscraper window. Webb looks too brittle to Bendix's beefy.

"Kiss of Death" (1947) was my favorite. Who knew Victor Mature was capable of a fine, nuanced performance? (I always bought into the popular wisdom that he was a vacant hunk. And with only his cameo in the Monkees' 1968 mess "Head" to go by, I had precious little evidence to the contrary.) The many New York City locations -- interiors AND exteriors -- work their gritty magic. Colleen Gray is very sexy and believable. (Of course, we horror geeks can never seperate her from "The Leech Woman.") Not having expected the scene where (Spoiler Alert #2) Richard Widmark pushes the old lady in the wheelchair down the steps, I found it very shocking.

"Where the Sidewalk Ends" (1950) is Andrews again, this time as a detective who (Spoiler Alert #3) frames a guy for murder -- and then gets hot 'n' heavy with his daughter (Gene Tierney)! Preminger helmed this one as well, so there's more of that thoughtful cinematography, such as a dialogue-free scene in which Andrews and a gangster are at a parking garage riding a car elevator to a fateful meeting. (The camera is mounted on the hood of the car they're riding in.)

Film noir -- watch some today!