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Robert Altman Book Review

Until I read Richard Schickel’s “Altman lovers read no further” (Book review of Mitchell Zuckoff’s Robert Altman – The Oral Biography, October 22, Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times), I felt like I was the only person noticing that Emperor Altman had no clothes.

Yes, actors loved working with him — unless the actor took a break from their self-absorption long enough to notice how he treated the rest of his colleagues on the film (ask his writers; ask music arranger Van Dyke Parks; ask production designer Wolf Kreuger. Sadly, it’s too late to ask Harry Nilsson about his devastating experience with Altman on Popeye — but you can read about it).

In the early days of his career Altman made a few decent, quirky films: That Cold Day in the Park, Brewster McCloud and McCabe & Mrs. Miller. But shortly after he started being celebrated by the film press, he began to produce a long string of self-indulgent crap. His filmography includes what is perhaps the worst and most painfully pretentious film ever created by a celebrated director: Quintet.

My wife, sons and I all agreed to bail from Gosford Park after suffering through an incredibly long first hour in which the slightest semblance of a story had yet to kick in.

Films are supposed to be condensed, heightened versions of reality. I work in the film industry and love films about our work world. Amazingly, The Player was a heavily diluted version of what it’s like to work in our business.

That Altman was boozing and smoking weed throughout the making of his films explains a lot.

Thank you, Mr. Schickel.

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October Shadows & BOMP! 2

The opening of the October Shadows exhibition of Halloween-inspired art at Nucleus Gallery (see my website’s “Appearances” section) went extremely well on Saturday night. Tim Curry (Rocky Horror, Legend, etc.) showed up, as well as many of the Hollywood horror film industry’s make-up and effects stars. Model extraordinaire Jennifer Fabos Patton organized a life drawing session upstairs which was very well attended (No, I didn’t draw; I was there to meet-and-greet).

If you go, be sure to visit the upstairs space as, in addition to the six works I have downstairs, I also have two more pieces upstairs. The book dummy of the forthcoming October Shadows art book is on display at the gallery, too.

My signing on Sunday of the BOMP! 2 book at the incredible record/CD shop FreakBeat Records in Sherman Oaks was also packed with a variety of music and art fans. After I signed his BOMP! 2 book, I had my friend Andrew Sandoval sign his latest and greatest Rhino collection, Where The Action Is, for me. It’s an incredible box set (with book) documenting the Los Angeles rock scene from 1965 to 1968. I was there and everything reported in the book is true!

Suzy Shaw made a big batch of her amazing cookies for the event (my lunch that day) and cheerfully answered questions regarding her late hubby and the fire behind the rock fanzine movement, Greg Shaw.

I brought the original art to the BOMP! 2 cover with me, as well as my recent Smithereens CD cover and a painting I did of the TMQ pig.

Signing the BOMP! 2 book with me was Suzy, plus her co-editor on the book, Mike Stax (San Diego publisher of the great “Ugly Things” magazine) and the brilliant long time rock scribe Ken Barnes.

A good time seemed to be had by all!

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Up North for a Bit

I keep running into rock ‘n’ rollers…

I was up in Novato (just north of San Francisco) for my uncle’s 80th birthday. The B-52s were playing a local benefit concert in Novato and were staying at my hotel. I ran into their fearless leader, Fred Schneider (a very nice fellow), in the elevator.

While up north, I toured Google, where my youngest son James works. Amazing work environment! It’s good to see a large corporation doing right by their employees in so many ways.

My wife Kent and I took a break up there and caught “Nine” and “District Nine.” I loved the look (sort of steam punk) of “Nine”; the script was less imaginative (but not offensive). “District Nine”, however, was bristling with ideas and energy. I knew the budget for the film and believe I saw every penny up on the screen. Bravo! to this little gem of a sci-fi film.

The birthday weekend was great. I got to see my cousins from Alaska, San Diego and Washington state. I brought my mom up with me, so between the lively conversations between the three of us (my mom, my wife & me) the six hour drive just flew. My wife made goopy but delicious sandwiches for the trip up so we wouldn’t have to stop. My mom and I both got liquidy (juice from the fresh farmer’s market tomato slices) parts of our sandwiches down the front of our shirts, of course. My heavily patterned shirt hid the stains.

There’s only about two weeks left at the Fullerton Museum Center (see Appearances) to view my original art for the notorious “BeatleSongs” cover. Come see why I got death threats from Beatles fans and made the front page of the Los Angeles Times as well as the pages of “People” magazine!!

I’ve got two appearances this weekend: Saturday is the opening of “October Shadows”, Taylor White’s annual exhibition of Halloween-inspired artwork. I submitted eight pieces (two were created just for this year’s show). On Sunday I’m signing the second book collection of material from “BOMP!” magazine at FreakBeat Records, one of the best (if not the best) music shops in Los Angeles. Ironically, it’s one of the last great indy CD shops (they’re all disappearing rapidly) in the town that hosts most of the music industry. I think the music industry is mostly to blame for the fact that it’s so difficult for a guy like me, who is dying to spend loads of dough on CDs, to locate enough shops with enough variety to find and purchase the CDs I’m looking for. The great shops are almost all gone! The great indy shops like Aron’s and Rhino have disappeared along with the deep catalogue stores like Tower Records and the Virgin Megastores. Gone! I HATE having to go to Best Buy or Target, whose staff knows nothing about the music they sell, to pick up my CDs. On my last trip to Best Buy I noticed that the CD section has been reduced to almost half of what it was. I am forced now to do most of my CD purchasing on the internet. No more browsing through bins, no more unexpected discoveries. And, from what I hear from my friends in The Biz, pretty soon, no more CDs.

OK; this is bumming me out. I don’t try to write these Journal entries as downers.

Here’s something positive (and really, really IMPORTANT): From October 2, 2009 through February 7, 2010, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is hosting the largest exhibition ever assembled of the works of John William Waterhouse (“John William Waterhouse – Garden of Enchantment”). Waterhouse is perhaps my favorite painter of all time, a perfect blend of tight and loose brushmanship combined with the juiciest, most exquisite color sense. His men and women have an eternal, sensual beauty that I don’t visually tie to any one time period. Go to Google Images to feast upon a bounty of his latter day Pre-Raphaelite paintings. It’s worth a trip to Montreal to see these amazing works (my wife and I are going in a couple of weeks just to see them).

Great catalogue, too.

Happy to end on a high note.