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Posts Tagged ‘Danny Elfman’

I just finished a John Gresham short story about a lawyer who gets fed up practicing law, rips off a few clients and runs off to a tropical paradise and lives happily ever after. While I like Gresham, he is no Sheldon Siegel. Once a week I trundle the two miles to the outskirts of hell, where the English language bookstore is located, to check for Sheldon’s latest publication. While his mystery and courtroom scenes are great, it is the latest doings of his main characters Mike and Rosie that I look forward to. They are more real to me than my life here.

Two of my favorite authors are Sheldon Siegel and William Kotzwinkle. At least Sheldon Siegel sounds like and author. Kotzwinkle sounds like a character in Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Speaking of Pee Wee, I am waiting for a revival of Pee Wee Herman and Soupy Sales’ great performances. In case you do not recall (or are not old enough to recall) one of Soupy’s more memorable bits was to tell his juvenile audience to go into mommy and daddy’s room while they were asleep and go into daddy’s pants, take out his wallet, extract a dollar and mail it to Soupy. While most 5 to 10-year-olds got the joke, their parents had Soupy thrown off television.

Pee Wee, on the other hand, is the metaphor for our generation, a happy life in a children’s playhouse exposed in the dark theater of history. Pee Wee’s comeback was in one of my all time favorite movies “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (the original) where he plays a vampire’s assistant. You should see it. There are memorable performances in it by Rutger Hauer as the chief Vampire and Donald Sutherland as Buffy’s instructor in vampire slaying.

One of my ex-clients, Danny Elfman, the oscar winning musician, got his start in movies by writing the theme songs for the Pee Wee playhouse movies. Danny told me once that he was an “Artist,” not a doped up guitar player. I wonder if Willie Nelson considers himself and artist.

Danny’s brother Rick was also a client. Rick is the director of some of the worst movies ever made. Movies so bad that they appear in the cult movie section of video stores. Movies so bad they use a pseudonym for the director’s name. He directed such classics as “Forbidden Zone,” “Shrunken Heads,” “Streets of Rage” (Wherein he uses the pseudonym of “Aristide Pierre Laffite Sumatra of the Ton Ton Macoute”) and “Modern Vampires.”

The last of which, I made my film acting debut in a walk-on role and crossed off item one of my bucket list. The movie was about a war in Los Angeles between the Vampires and the Mafia, one of the last movies in which Rod Steiger appeared (and justly so). I of course played a Mafia Don who, in my one scene, holds open the trunk of a black limousine into which my two mafia henchman, dump the “Queen of the Vampires”(played by Kim Cattrell in one of her earliest and most regretted roles) tightly wrapped in strings of garlic to keep her comatose (I kid you not). Sic Transit Gloria.

Ciao…

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It has been a while since I have written about Pookies adventures. For some reason I seem to have lost interest in it, preferring instead to sit around contentedly watching the trees shed their leaves and winter settle in. Perhaps the increased dosage of my happy pills have turned my frustrations with life away from an acute pain needing immediate attention to simple dull aches that soon disappear. I guess artists and those who seem compelled to do things beyond simply maintaining their existence are not a particularly happy lot but do what they do in an effort to find it. Don’t we all?

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I travelled to Mendocino with Hayden, my sister and her husband George to spend the Thanksgiving holidays there. The weather was perfect, clear blue skies, sparkling waves, the temperature brisk but not cold. One day we walked along the Fort Bragg ocean-front from Glass Beach almost all the way to Ten Mile Beach a distance of several miles.

Fort Bragg is sad little coastal town that had consumed at least a score of years trying to recover from the loss of the logging industry that had been responsible for its foundation and the mainstay of its economy. The ocean front, tucked behind blocks of decaying commercial buildings, moderate priced motels, and some small homes, is a magnificent stretch of coastal dunes, and meadows, small coves and large sandy beaches.
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A view of the Fort Bragg oceanfront

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Winter has struck El Dorado Hills today, freezing cold, grey lowering sky and rumors of snow. I spoke with my son Jason yesterday. It seems that the City had restored most of the salary a wage cuts to employees instituted during the recession and his bitter struggle for the basics of material survival have lessened a bit. Alas, holiday season is coming and, for most of us, the forlorn hope that the festival of lights will illuminate our lives with joy often leaves us only disappointed and more in debt.

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Speaking of Christmas and the Festival of Lights, one of my pleasures of the season is observing the competition among the residents of the neighborhood to adorn their homes with the most garish and elaborate displays of lights. Having watched my friend Al’s weeks long obsession with mounting of his display and the misery to which he subjected the rest of his family while doing it, my enjoyment of the spectacles is somewhat diminished. When I was a kid, and even now, I hated the Holiday Season. What began for me as greedy hope for Santa’s promised riches, ended in listening to loud bitter arguments often ending in tears.

I liked, however, hearing the carols and songs of the season especially those sung in latin by the choir of the little Italian Church I attended. I enjoyed the pomp and color of Christmas High Mass much more than what went on under and around the Christmas tree in my home.
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Mornings in Mendocino we spent walking along the ocean bluffs and into the town where I would enjoy my caffe latte and brioche. Later I would accompany Hayden to the local book store and then to the two delightful toy stores in the town. One toy store boasted of no electronic toys whatsoever and the other was devoted exclusively to science.

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Hayden in Mendocino standing in front of the “science” store and the book store.

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One day recently, I spend most of the day in the Roseville Galleria, a mega shopping mall a few miles from where I am staying.

For much of my time there, I sat staring at the Santa Claus exhibit where children and their parents, for between $20 and $40, can have their picture taken sitting on Santa knee. The red-faced Santa had a real beard and would try to cop a feel from many of the good-looking moms who had their picture taken with him. Hayden at almost 9 years old still fervently believes in Santa. He told me that the Santa’s in the malls are all fake and the real Santa lives at the North Pole and is too busy to sit all day at the mall. Interestingly he also believes that Santa does not begin making his list and checking it twice until December 1. Presumably one can do whatever one wants the rest of the year.

I stopped believing in Santa when I was six or seven after my older cousin explained that the whole thing with Santa was a fake. As a result I stayed awake that Christmas eve to find out if what he said was true. I was convinced after catching my father placing the presents under the tree.

I began believing in Santa again when I turned seventy. There must be, I reasoned, something transcendental that rewards unmitigated greed since that seems to be the way of the world. Santa is as likely a culprit as anyone or thing. I call my religion Santaism. And, if Hayden is correct only worrying about doing the right thing for one month every year seems to be a pretty good deal.

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While traveling to Mendocino we stopped off in Healdsburg for dinner. The town has changed a lot since I had last seen it almost 30 years ago. At that time it was a run down hippie magnet, art pottery shops and tie dye emporiums. Situated helter-skelter in the hills surrounding the town were quaint little shingle houses overlooking various streams housing counter-cultural types of all varieties. With the advent of the wine bubble, the town gentrified and now looks more like Rodeo Drive in the boonies. I assume the creek-side shacks have mostly morphed into multimillion dollar designer homes.

I used to spend a lot of very happy time there with my son and a woman I knew. She lived in a cute little cottage on the edge of a bank overlooking a pretty stream. She was a teacher. I met her while introducing some novel lesson plans into the Santa Rosa School District based upon Bucky Fuller’s various manifestoes. Bucky was one of the heroes of the counter-culture. I had run his San Francisco World Games Workshop sometime in the early 1970’s. After that I had a brief career consulting with local school districts preparing lesson plans based upon Fuller’s geometry concepts and history lesson plans derived from his insights regarding integration of large systems into historical analysis, an approach different from the politics of nations and great man biographies that passed for history at the time. This latter course was directed at high school students. The mathematical course was aimed at elementary school. Interestingly the geometry engendered a surprisingly positive reaction from some of the students in the so-called at the time 600 classes, the extremely slow learners. We eventually recruited these students as teaching assistants to help with the advanced students who in many cases were experiencing difficulty with the concepts.

Anyway, after my relationship with the woman ended, she went back to school to acquire a PhD in geology and later joined the US Geological Survey and ultimately stationed in Alaska. I few years later I read in the newspaper that she had been out on a field survey when a bear attacked her. It an effort to save her life, she played dead. It worked as far as her life was concerned, but not before the bear had chewed off both of her arms. A few months later I saw a photograph of her in the newspaper right after she had been fitted with a prosthesis on both of her arms. She was always a very positive and upbeat person and in the story that accompanied the photograph she had indicated that her misfortune would not deter her from proceeding on with her life doing whatever it was that she enjoyed doing.

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One day while driving I was listening to the local classical music station when the announcer indicated that the next piece, a concerto or something like that, was written by my old client Danny Elfman. The music was tinkly and repetitive but seemed as good to me as much of the other music played by the station.

Danny was the brother of another client and friend, Rick Elfman, a director of some notably bad movies one or two of which were so bad they became cult classics. Rick was the father of the actress Jenna Elfman. He made his professional boxing début as one of the oldest boxers to make their début in Canada (he was too old to be allowed to do so in the US). The match was terminated before it began when he injured himself stepping into the ring.

Danny had exhibited scant aptitude for music in his childhood, however, during his mid teens he picked up a guitar and found he could play it quite well without instruction. He promptly disappeared with his guitar into Africa and emerged two years later with a vast knowledge and repertory of African music and musical techniques. Thereafter he and his brother created the rock group Oingo-Boingo which led eventually to Danny writing the music to Pee Wee’s Playhouse and fame, ultimately winning him a couple of Oscars for his music and Bridget Fonda.

The last time I saw Danny was at a warehouse in Venice or Santa Monica or Malibu, I cannot remember which, but it was in the Coastal Zone in any event. Now that he was an “artist,” Danny wanted a studio worthy of his fame. He planned to convert the warehouse into a series of studio’s where he could enhance his artistic capabilities. He wanted separate studios for his music, painting, sculpture and who knows what else. He wanted my advice on securing a Coastal Permit for his dreams. I told him he would be better off to keep the changes he had planned internal to his existing building making only minor changes to the outside of it.

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